An opossum, is a fat, furry animal about the size of a pet cat. The fur on a possum’s body is gray, on its face its white. Its nose is long and pointed and its head is white. Its legs are short, its tail is long and hairless. It has five toes on each foot. More often than not an opossum is called just possum.
A female possum has a pouch and young possums are born in the female’s pouch. A female has one, sometimes two broods in a year and twelve, even thirteen or fourteen young in a brood. But a female doesn’t have that many teats. New born opossums, as many as can, get a hold on a teat and don’t let go until they are old enough and big enough to leave the pouch and begin eating solid food. It seems cruel but lung that don’t get a hold on a teat starve.
When old enough for solid food, young possums let go of their mother, climb outside her body and up onto their mother’s back. When the young are on a mother possum’s back she curls her tail up over them and they curl their tails up around her tail. A female possum with three, four, five young on her back, her tail curled up over them, their tails curled around their mothers is a sight to behold, a sight i’ve only seen a few times.
Possums are animals of the night. They take shelter during the day and in inclement weather in the thick foliage of tall trees, often high in a tree, sixty, seventy, eighty feet up. They also take shelter in the deserted dens of other animals, in openings under farm outbuildings, until after dark. They also rest during the day in cavities beneath farm outbuildings, in hollow trees or logs and in culverts.
The possum I’m familiar with, the one I write about, is often called the Virginia possum. Its range is eastern and central U.S., from the most northern states of the U.S., south of Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico and west to the Rocky Mountains.
A few days ago I had a close encounter with a possum. We have an area of our front yard fenced to keep raccoons, woodchucks, skunks and other animals out. It doesn’t work. Raccoons get in regularly and at least once a skink got in. One of our dogs found the skunk and it was days, weeks and many baths before we finally got rid of the smell.
A few days ago a possum got into the fenced area of our yard. One of our dogs saw the possum and caught it. I saw the dog with the possum, grabbed the possum but the tails and tried to lift it, to throw it over the fence. The possum didn’t struggle. It was limp, playing possum, as they say. But the dog struggled. When I lifted the possum the dog came with it. I had a dead weight, the possum and a dog. Together the two were too heavy for me to throw over the fence.
Finally, after what seemed like a long time, I got the possum to the top of the fence, then over it. At that point I let go and as the possum began to fall, on the the other side of the fence, the dog let go and the seemingly lifeless possum fell to the ground, outside the fence and the dog falling inside the fence. And now I have experienced a possum playing possum.