Yassum, That’s Our Possum

Well, he’s not really ours, but he does live here and we like having him around.  “Why?” you say.  For one thing, he’s very cool.  Watch as he makes his way through our yard at night.

Another reason we like him is because he’s our cleanup crew.  Any small animal that meets an untimely end will be sniffed out and eaten overnight.  How helpful and efficient!  He, or his offspring, been living under our deck for over 15 years.  He’s shy, and our cats get along fine with him.

Opossum-CindyPope

courtesy Cindy Pope via Wikimedia

Right, OK – the correct name is Opossum which is borrowed from the Virginia Algonquian (Powhatan) language, and was first recorded between 1607 and 1611 by the Jamestown colonists.  But they are commonly called possums in the South and Midwest. They are the largest order of marsupials in the western hemisphere with 103 species.

Possums are usually solitary and nomadic, staying in one area as long as food and water are easily available. Some families will group together in ready-made burrows or even under houses. When threatened or harmed, they will “play possum”, mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal.

Opossums have a remarkably robust immune system, and show partial or total immunity to the venom of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and other pit vipers.  Opossums are about eight times less likely to carry rabies than wild dogs, and about one in eight hundred opossums is infected with this virus.

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