* Fur whitish gray, face white. Muzzle long, pointed, rat-like.
* Ears thin, black or with white tips.
* Tail round, thin, scaly with a few bristly hairs, prehensile,
black with a white tip, 9-20".
* Head and body length: 15-20".
* Habitat: Farmlands, suburbs, forests, along streams. Lives in old dens,
hollow trees, buildings, brush piles.
* Range: Eastern and central United States, southeastern Canada, and
most of Mexico.
* Behavior: 'Possums are usually nocturnal. They feed on fruits, vegetables,
nuts, meat, eggs, insects, and carrion. They are the only marsupials
in North America. When opossums are born, the tiny, blind young crawl
through the mother's hair to her external pouch and develop attached
to a nipple. Indeed, the nipple swells in the mouth so a small opossum
cannot let go. Once free of the pouch, they often choose to ride on their
mother's back, clinging to her fur.
* Lifespan: About 7 years.
* One contribution the opossum has made to our language is the expression "playing
possum", meaning "faking something". The expression comes from an unusual
behavior of the animal; it can appear dead by lying limp and motionless,
with its mouth open. This state can last from a few minutes up to six
hours. Scientists have dubbed this behavior a protective measure, but
the exact reason for playing dead remains unknown. However, do not touch
an opossum playing dead. The animal will deliver a nasty bite if you
do not go along with its fakery.
* Why are there so many opossums in Australia but only one species
in North America? The answer probably has to do with continental
drift; in those faraway days when all continents on earth were
joined, the Virginia Opossum ended up in the region which later
became the North American continent. Its relatives remained Down
Under, and are still firmly established there today.
Approved by NR