Opossum belongs to marsupial family

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Most of us drop the O in his name and just call this homely guy a possum, but the proper spelling is opossum. He is not a large rat, as he may appear, but rather is the lone North American member of a large group of marsupials that occur mostly in Central and South America and Australia.

A mother opossum has a pouch on her underside where it carries and nurses her young. Baby opossums are born small -- about the size of a bumblebee. Several are born at a time. After birth, the small opossums have to crawl through the mother's fur and find the pouch where they will stay for close to three months. After that time, for another month or so, the young will ride on their mother by clinging to her fur.

These animals move slowly, although they can run quite quickly. When unable to escape danger an opossum will "play dead" or "play possum." The diet of the opossum consists of almost anything and everything from fruit to meat to insects and even grass.

You will be more likely to see an opossum at night because they are nocturnal. However, they are not apt to venture out on cold, snowy nights because they have bare pink toes that are not protected from cold or frozen ground.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell.

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