A marsupial transient has taken up residence on my front porch. Mind you, I was not the first to take notice of the young opossum (about the size of a large guinea pig) curled up in a ball inside one of the many vintage watering cans that line my front porch—my good terriers Scout and Finch did. As soon as I let them out the front door they were all over that watering can. I put the dogs back in the house and grabbed my camera.
Our young visitor is properly known as a Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana), North America’s only marsupial (mammals with a pouch in which they carry their young, like a kangaroo or a koala or a wombat). The opossum has been around for at least 70 million years and is one of the world’s oldest surviving mammals. Solitary animals, opossums are nocturnal and spend the day in dens or protected spots like my watering can. They do not hibernate in winter.
I knew opossums were nomads, so I couldn’t figure out why this one wasn’t moving on. After digging around on the internet, I discovered that, in order to avoid predators, opossums move to a different den every few days. Sure enough, by yesterday there was no sign of our pointy-nosed houseguest with a prehensile tail. Considered loathsome by some, I find these shy creatures quite curious. Opossums are by no means stupid. In fact, results from learning and discrimination tests rank opossums above dogs and more or less on a par with pigs in intelligence.
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