Tuesday, July 20, 2010

POSSUMS!

A couple of nights ago, we dogs found a possum up on the fence in the back of our yard.  We got really, really excited because possums smell like they would be totally yummy to eat.  Even people like to eat possums, so it's no wonder that dogs like them, too.  Mom came out in the yard to see what all the excitement was about, but the possum had already got away by that time, so we didn't get to catch him and eat him.

One time we really did catch a possum, though, and it was two or three years ago.  We caught the possum and we killed it, or at least we thought we did because it looked dead and it smelled dead, too.  It was just lying there on the ground, and then it started smelling kind of icky, so we weren't sure what to do with our possum.  Then Mom came out with a flashlight and looked at it, and she thought it was dead, too, because it really did look dead.

But Mom was afraid to try to pick it up or anything, just in case it wasn't totally dead, so she made us come in the house, and she called Aunt Cheryl and asked her what to do.  Aunt Cheryl said maybe the possum wasn't really dead, and she said Mom should wait an hour or so and then go look again.  So Mom did that, and surprise!  The possum was gone!

So anyway, last night I decided to do some research on opossums, and I learned several very interesting things.  One is that these animals have a special talent for pretending to be dead, and this is called "playing possum."  And it turns out to be more than just deciding to lie very still.  Because it's something that the possum's body does without the possum even having to think about doing it.  So the possum actually is sort of unconscious, and its lips are drawn back, and it might foam at the mouth and let out some stinky fluid stuff from its butt.  Then after a while, when it's safe again, the possum wakes up and trots off.

As you might already know, possums are marsupials, so their babies are only 12 to 14 days old when they are born.  Then they have to crawl to the mother's pouch and go inside the pouch and attach themselves to a teat.  This is not easy for a teeny tiny baby to do, so even though lots of possums are born, most of them don't make it all the way to the pouch.  But sometimes as many as 13 can attach, which seems like it would make the pouch pretty crowded.

Here's a picture of baby possums inside their mom's pouch.  She is sleeping in a safe place, so the pouch got relaxed and you can see inside it.

Baby possums sometimes hang by their tails from branches, but adult possums can't do this because their tails aren't strong enough to hold them.  So what they use their tails for instead is to help them climb or to carry stuff to their nests.

Possums aren't fussy about what they eat.  They like stuff like roadkill, frogs, insects, birds, snakes, small mammals, earthworms, apples, and persimmons.  They also like to go dumpster diving for leftover people food or pet food.

Here's another interesting fact:  possums have more teeth than any other land mammal!  The word opossum comes from the Algonquian word wapathemwa, which means "white dog."  The Virginia Opossum is the kind of possum we have in the U.S. and Canada.  At first it lived mostly in the east part of the country, but during the Great Depression it got introduced into other parts of the country as a food source.  Possums used to be hunted a lot in the South, and they were usually baked or sometimes made into a pie.  Older editions of The Joy of Cooking had possum recipes, but nowadays not as many people eat possums.  I sure do wish I could eat one, though!

10 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. You are just a wealth of information. Having grown up on the farm possums were around but badgers where the really bad news. We had a dog that was very fierce and agressive when it came to badgers and protecting the family. So much that one night there was so much ruckus outside that dad had to get up with the shotgun and go out and kill it. It was getting to the point that it was either the badger or the dog wasn't going to come out in very good shape. I was just glad dad was there with the shotgun to save the family dog.!! Dogs have great stories, and i'm sure that all of the ones I had growing up had plenty of them, wish I would have written of their adventures. Farm dogs have far more than city dogs I'm sure. But Piper, I love yours... you are a good dog for your mom :) Jean

      Delete
    2. Dear Aunt Jean,
      I have heard that badgers are very fierce and scary, which is why I would not like to meet one in person! I am sure that farm dogs have more adventures than city dogs, but I am very happy to be a city dog and live inside where it is warm in winter and cool in summer. Also I can watch lots of TV shows anytime I want to!
      Your friend, Piper

      Delete
  2. great info to prove we have a neighborhood possum

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for sharing. This explains what I saw this morning that seemed to me like a dead opossum coming back to life!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I LIKE THIS ABOUT POSSUM'S MY DAD JUST TOLD ME THE SAME THING ABOUT POSSUM'S HE'S IN THE SOUTH TOO. HE SAID, MY DOG GOT ME A BIG POSSUM AND LAYED IT ON THE GOUND FOR ME. HE WENT IN THE HOUSE TO GET HIS BIG KNIVE AND HE WAS GETTING READY TO CUT THE HEAD AND IT FAKE LIKE IT WAS DEAD AND JUMP UP RUNNING LIKE IT WAS IN TRACK IN FILL AND THE DOG COULDN'T CATCH IT.THIS IS SOOOOOO FUNNY !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, possums are tricky like that! LOL

      Delete
  5. why kill an animal that is no threat to you ?

    ReplyDelete