5:36 p.m. - 2006-12-28
How are you? Man, my saluations are cheesy! I sort of feel like I'm channeling "The Onion"'s annoying columnist Jean Teasdale!
How did you all spend your holiday weekends? I'm sure you all perused the family trapping shed, admired the growing pile of penis bones there and of course, enjoyed some marvelous home cooking. Right? Isn't that what everyone does?!
In Wendell family news, two of my sisters got engaged over Christmas! Lovely L and Amazing A each have pledged their troth to the handsome lads JK and TG, respectively. Also I think I've finally got a picture of the elusive attack miniature schnauzer, "Kung Fu". Did I buy him a doggy backpack? Oh, yes! Why, here is my future brother-in-law, TG, and the wild animal himself! "Kung Fu" is the fastest mammal in the world! [That has ran around my Mom's kitchen table.]
This weekend we saw a raccoon, an otter, many a beaver and also the squirrels my Mom likes to feed. On Christmas Day, a small (yet powerful) baby held us all hostage; you can read her take on the holiday here!
Today's Creature Feature involves an animal that I did not see in WI over the weekend. Instead, there was a deceased one on my Minneapolis street a few weeks ago! So, let us learn about the opossum!
Ay! A picture from the motherland: www.dnr.wi.gov
The Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is America's only marsupial!
Opossums have marsupial relatives down in South America, and have cousins, called "Possums", in Australia, too.
About the size of a large cat, opossums are about 32 - 36 inches long and weigh from four to twelve pounds. Their fur is gray and sparse, and they have a bare, prehensile tail. While possums can grab things with their tails, adults can't support their body weight with their tail alone. Babies will hang from a tree branch, though. Possum feet are also very dexterous.
Fun Fact: Opossum fur is very soft and was frequently used as a bath sponge!
In the U.S., possums live mostly east of the Rockies, but were introduced to the west coast as a food source during the Great Depression. Their range includes British Columbia and Ontario in Canada and Mexico and Central America to the South.
These nocturnal, solitary dudes prefer habitat that is moist or swampy. They are often found in trees, or inhabiting the burrows of other creatures. Using their acute sense of smell, opossums will eat most anything, including ripe fruit, insects, small creatures, plants, garbage and carrion.
Like raccoons, opossums don't hibernate, but have to forage all winter. In the coldest weather possums become active in the day.
Boy and girl possums live separately most of the year. The male has a territory of about 250 acres, and the female's is smaller at about 125 acres. These areas will change over time depending on the availability of food sources.
Usually female opossums will give birth twice a year. About 13 days after nooky occurs, the tiny, kidney bean sized babies are born and crawl upwards into mama's pouch! She has 13 nipples to choose from! There they suckle and grow for 55 to 60 days, until they are mouse sized. The baby possums then emerge and ride around on the adult's back for four to six weeks.
A family photo from www.brandywinezoo.org:
Come on, they're pretty cute, right?!
The last litter of babies of the year will usually overwinter with their mother, before leaving to find territories of their own.
The longevity of opossums through the ages can be attributed to several superpowers. First, they're gentle creatures and adverse to conflict, (and slow runners!) so, when threatened, possums will either run up a tree or play dead. (Playing possum!) This involves the creature sprawling out on its back, drooling, slowing its heart rate and excreting a smelly liquid from its anal glands. This catatonic state can last for up to four hours!
Another possum-power is its fabulous immune system. Opossums have total or partial immunity to the venom of poisonous snakes! In addition, their blood temperature is low, which helps to prevent rabies infections.
Well, I bet you'll be seeing an opossum before long! I hope this article will give you some insight into this interesting creature! To close, some Possum Fun Facts:
*Called "Manicou" in Dominica and Trinidad, possum meat is considered a delicacy and is smoked and stewed.
*Mexicans call possums "Tlacuache" and eat their tails to increase fertility.
*Possums have 50 teeth, which is the most for any mammal!
*The name "opossum" was first coined by Captain John Smith in 1607 after the Algonquin word "apasum", which means "white animal".
*"Possum" is the title of a song by Phish!
All right, huggies and see you later,