Fall in Love with a Possum | Nature’s Clean Up Crew

Fall in Love with a Possum | Nature’s Clean Up Crew

You’ll fall in love with Possums after reading this and seeing my amazing photos of these incredible little animals!

 

Have you ever seen a Possum? Would you know one if you saw one? What would you do if you came upon one in your yard? Is it pronounced Opossum or Possum? Both are correct- it’s just a matter of personal preference. I’d be willing to bet that one or more of these critters has visited your yard at some point and you didn’t even know it.

 Let’s clear up one common misconception right away…

Possums are not rats! I repeat- Possums are NOT rats. Possums are marsupials! They are North Americas only marsupial, meaning they have a pouch to carry their babies in after they are born. When baby possums are born, they are only about the size of a bee; they crawl up into their mother’s pouch, live and nurse in her warmth for about two months. Kangaroos and Wallabies, Koala Bears, Wombats and Tasmanian Devils are also marsupials, however, these guys live mostly in Australia and the surrounding islands. Once they are about two months old, they ride on Mom’s back as she travels around in search of food.

 

Baby Ralphie kisses Baby Rudy (Photo- Karen Hance)
Baby Ralphie kisses Baby Rudy- September 2017 (Photo- Karen Hance)

Another important fact about Possums is that they are nocturnal- this means that they are more active at night than during the day. Possums usually sleep during the daytime in a den, an abandoned burrow or even a hollow tree. They come out to eat in the early evening and throughout the night. Possums have special eyes that help them see in the dark. There are actually a large number of nocturnal animals, but the most common ones include skunks, raccoons, bats, chinchillas, sugar gliders, owls, hyenas, red foxes, hamsters, porcupines, cockroaches, fireflies and many more.

 

Baby Rudy enjoying a peanut butter snack. (Photo- Karen Hance)
Baby Rudy enjoying a peanut butter snack. September 2017 (Photo- Karen Hance)

 

The Virginia Opossum (its official name), when fully grown is about the size of a house cat, approximately 2 1/2 feet (76 cm) long, including its tail. The tail alone is about 12 inches (30 cm) long and is hairless and scaly. It is called a prehensile tail and it is used for grasping and balancing, not for hanging or sleeping upside down. Possums have blackish-gray fur with a white face. They have short legs with pink, clawed feet. Each foot has five toes and the big toe on the rear feet is clawless and opposable, meaning they can use it pretty much like we use our thumbs. Their front paws are used to grasp food much like a raccoon. They have a pointed snout with a cute little pink nose and whiskers that help them see in the dark. Ears are big, black and leathery with white tips and are hairless.

 

Baby Possum in our backyard- Rudy- about 10 weeks old (Photo- Karen Hance)
Baby Possum in our backyard- Rudy- about 10 weeks old (Photo- Karen Hance)

 

Possums are omnivores- meaning they eat both plants and animals.  Their diet consists of mice, lizards, earthworms, snails, spiders, snakes, fruit, nuts, seeds, and carrion (dead animals or roadkill). They are considered a “gardeners friend” as they eat the fallen, rotting fruit from the trees in your yard and the unwanted pests in our yard. Just one possum can eat up to 5000 ticks a year, helping to protect humans from Lyme disease. They are quite literally Nature’s Little Clean-up Crew!

 

Important Fact: 

Possums rarely ever carry rabies! Their body temperature is too low at 94-97 degrees Fahrenheit (34-36 degrees Celcius) for the virus to survive. Any animal can get rabies, but it is extremely rare in possums. Another interesting tidbit is that possums are said to be immune to snake venom! Studies were done in the 1940’s and again in the 90’s  showed that a molecule in their blood called a peptide can actually neutralize some snake venom. It’s possible that one-day possums could help save people from snake bites- I’m all for this so long as no possums are harmed in doing so!

 

Possum brothers Ralphie and Rudy. (Photo- Karen Hance)
Possum brothers Ralphie and Rudy. November 2017 We’re growing so fast! (Photo- Karen Hance)

 

I remember seeing possums as a kid and was super excited the night we finally saw one walk through our backyard this past September. We had been watching some raccoons, skunks, deer and a groundhog and decided to install a Nest Cam Outdoor security camera in the backyard to see just what kind of critters visited us while we slept. I’m so glad we did because we found out that we had two young possums that couldn’t have been much more than 2-3 months old. They were just the cutest little things! I instantly fell in love with them and of course, named them- Rudy is the smaller one and Ralphie is the bigger one.

We also found out that we had a total of four skunks- yes, I named them too- They each have different markings so they were easy to tell apart. There is Harriet, Dorothy, Missy and Sissy. Rudy and Dorothy became good friends as time went on and would regularly dine together. We watched as four raccoons visited and usually took turns with the skunks and possums. At times we had skunks, raccoons and possums all dining together and just hanging out, minding their own business, for the most part.

 

Baby Rudy with friend Dorothy the skunk. (Photo- Karen Hance)
Baby Rudy with friend Dorothy the skunk. October 2017 (Photo- Karen Hance)

 

There were a couple times that the littlest possum, being a playful little pup, would sneak up on the skunks and scare them, but that’s another story. Just know that skunks get a bad rap as far as attacking and spraying goes- they are quite docile and even when provoked, do not spray unless they feel extremely threatened or they have babies. Our camera is proof of that.

Possums have 50 little teeth in their mouths and use them for eating and looking scary. They are not aggressive and will run most times before they confront you or your pets. When they feel threatened and cannot escape, they will play “possum” and pretend that they are dead.  They will only bite in self-defense, as any animal would.

We are so attached to our possums and put food out for them every night. They totally LOVE peanut butter and peanuts, both in the shell and out. Grapes and cut up apples are a couple more of their favorites. I was very worried about them lately, with the extremely cold weather we’ve been having; we hadn’t seen them for about 3 weeks. The last couple days have warmed up a bit and one of the possums returned for his nightly snacks. I received a real treat tonight as I was writing this when both possums showed up at the same time and stood side-by-side, enjoying their peanut butter.

 

Rudy & Ralphie returned after the extreme cold weather; enjoying some peanut butter. (Photo- Karen Hance)
Rudy & Ralphie returned after the extreme cold weather; enjoying some peanut butter. January 2018- look how big we’ve gotten! (Photo- Karen Hance)

 

I hope the information, photos and videos in this post have changed your mind about possums and helped you to become a fan of them. They mean you no harm- just ignore them or sit back and enjoy their presence. Please do not hurt them, poison them or kill them. Be careful when driving as they sometimes wander into the road and cannot get out of the way quickly. If you accidentally hit a possum with your car, please stop and see if it is alive or has babies in its pouch. I will tell you what to do in another post if you find an injured possum or a deceased momma with babies and how to help.

Thank you for visiting and if you want more information on possums, please visit the Opossum Society of the United States. They are a wonderful organization that provides for the care and treatment of injured and orphaned wild possums and their release back into the wild and educates the public about the misunderstood possum and the benefits the possum provides.

As usual, keep those feeders filled and watch out for backyard wildlife. Happy Birding~ Karen

 

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16 Replies to “Fall in Love with a Possum | Nature’s Clean Up Crew”

    1. Hi. They don’t seem to bother the cats, and I think ducks and chickens are too big for them to bother. They like small food. Their mouths are small.

  1. I have loved possums for quite a long time. Not as a younger child because the brief glimpses I got of one usually was beside the road and they looked scary. I never wanted any harm to come to them, But that was quite a misconception on my part. About 30 years ago, we were living in upstate NY, middle of winter, couple of feet of snow and early dark. My hubby bundled up, put gloves on , and walked down our long driveway to the mailbox at the roadside. Just a couple of minutes later he was ringing the front doorbell. I went and opened the door and he was standing on the porch holding a possum by the back of the neck cradled in his arm like a baby. While he was outside, a possum had sauntered by and he reached down to pick it up, and to his great surprise he picked it up by the nape of the neck without any difficulty so he decided to bring it to the house to let me and our young daughter see it. I was shocked when I first realized what it was and kind of made a face. Hubby reassured me that he had a good hold of him and he wasn’t struggling- just being very still. Hubby was not hurting him in the least, but Possum had his mouth open and made himself look as scary as he could manage. It gave me the opportunity to get a closer look at him and appreciate that he wasn’t scary as I had always thought. He was just grinning his “ possum eating saw briars” grin! Very shortly, hubby took him back to where he had found him and put him down. Hubby said he didn’t get rowdy or squirmy. He “played possum” for a short while before he got up and sauntered off into dark. Its a very fond memory and I think of it often and always slow down and worry about them if I see one beside the road.

    1. What a great story! I’m glad to hear that you are on the possums side… They need us! I just love our possums and it’s been so fun to watch them grow up. I love seeing them come to eat and can’t wait for spring to see if we get some more babies. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you get a chance to read some of my other posts. Thanks for looking out for the Possums

      1. I just learned how to sort of use Instagram about a month ago. I have been following you there a week or so. Today is the first time that I have actually searched for your blog and I have read quite a few things and done the bird quizzes. I intend to read everything since your start in February (By the way, my son, my mother and my birthday are in February too all within 3 days of each other. ) your son is really handsome. I am glad to have contact with someone who seems as crazy about birds as I am.

  2. The possums are precious! We’ve always liked them! A long time ago we put our big marshmallows for fun at night to see what would happen (wasn’t the healthiest choice I guess). Anyway, it was so cute because the opossum held it with his little pink feet and you could see the bliss on his face as he ate it.

  3. Hi, love this! I lived next to a Possum rescue lady for 9 years, so guess who took care of the newest rescue when they went out of town. It was eye opening, and incredible. We are animals lovers, so naturally I loved it when they went out of town.
    We did bottle feed quite of few babies. I learned so much and wish I had a picture to share, but I have to tell you….
    My possum friend, ( beth ), loved to decorate! So, stuffed possums were everywhere. At Christmas, she had a model sleigh in her living room which of course, was being pulled by Christmas possums. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing the story!

    1. Omg.. What a wonderful story. I would love to rescue baby possums but I work all day, I’m also allergic to cats and dogs, so I’m not sure if Possums would be an issue. We have another new Possum that I named Piglet because he literally looks like a little piglet. You can see him in my Instagram. I can see why you want her to go out of town- they are such cuties. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you get a chance to read and enjoy some of my other posts. Karen

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