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Friday, April 23, 2010
One of the most wacky wild creatures in the United States is the possum. The possum is related to the kangaroo. Like the kangaroo, a mother possum raises her babies in a pouch on her tummy. The possum is the only marsupial (pouched) mammal in the United States.
Possums are not the most beautiful animals. Their ears and tail are hairless. They have coarse grey over the rest of their body. They have pink noses. Their head looks a little like a fox. Their body is shaped more like a raccoon. They are about the size of a house cat.
Possum babies are no bigger than a dime when they are born. As soon as they are born, the babies crawl into their mother's pouch and live there for seven to ten weeks.
Possums like the night. They eat almost anything, including rats, frogs, pet food, fruit, grass, and nuts.
Possums are really very harmless creatures. The most interesting thing about possums is what happens when they are afraid. When a possum is afraid, he first hisses and bares his teeth. If that doesn't scare his predator away, the possum goes limp and pretends to be dead. A possum plays dead so that his predator will leave him alone. As soon as the threat is gone, the possum makes its escape.
When I was young, I retrieved a baby possum that I found in our yard. I took him to Mom. I thought that he was dead. Mom put the possum under some bushes. We watched him from inside the house. In about 15 minutes, the baby possum got up and walked away.
Another interesting fact about possums is that they do not get rabies. Their body temperature is too low to become infected with the disease.
The possum in this photo was found injured. Some wildlife rehabilitator friends of ours helped the possum to get healthy again. Mom took this picture the day that the possum was released back into the wild.
For more information about possums, go to http://www.volunteersforwildlife.org/downloads/fact_sheets/opos.pdf