James A. Baggett

Playing Possum

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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2 Responses to “ Playing Possum ”

  1. What a lovely photo! I find young possums quite attractive. I’m pleased the youngster remained unharmed and able to enjoy your front porch!

  2. For years my only contact with opossums was seeing them crossing the road but in the last few years I have encountered them around my house. I do live in a wooded area so I am not surprised. The first time I saw one it was crouched on top of the propane tank under my grill. Another time I saw one toddling through the yard with a bunch of dry leaves on it back like a sailboat. I learned from the internet that they carry them this way when building their nests. My latest encounter was when a box of cookies I had stored on a shelf in my garage was opened and left with not much eaten. I guess she didn’t like them, they were store bought. Since the critter hung around I dusted the floor with flour and from the internet again discovered it was a young possum. My husband and I decided it must have somehow squeezed through a covered dog door that we no longer use. Since I didn’t want it living in our locked garage I tried to make it go outside by nudging it with a broom but it just hid behind the workbench and stared at me. I thought it was very cute. I decided to just leave the dog door and pen gate open to see if it would leave which it did. I guess the info I read didn’t say they will move on on their own or I would have done that in the first place. I have learned they rid us of many pests and the only evidence that she was there was the opened box.