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Opossums Scrounging

3-19-14 opossum2  021Within the last century the Virginia Opossum has extended its range northeastward and now occurs sporadically throughout most of New England. Its adaptability to a great variety of habitats and its omnivorous diet (is there anything an opossum won’t eat?) have enabled this marsupial to live in much colder climates than it initially inhabited. As long as food can be found,the opossum’s greatest challenge is dealing with New England’s cold winters. Lacking much hair, the ears and tail of an opossum often suffer from frostbite, turning black at the edges (ears) and tip (tail). Look for signs of this nocturnal scavenger under bird feeders – in the winter it can even be seen foraging in the daylight, as the opossum in this photograph was earlier this week. (Thanks to Dotty Cummings for photo op.)

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7 responses

  1. Marilyn

    A possum is a marsupial ~ I’d forgotten! Except for the rat-like (prehensile!) tail, they actually are cute, fascinating, and useful.

    March 19, 2014 at 11:50 am

  2. Cecelia Blair

    They aren’t aggressive and don’t get rabies. They do have sharp teeth. Their tracks show an opposing digit, like hands. They climb well, and in the south sometimes sleep through the day upside down in a bush. The females have two uteri and males have a bifurcated penis. The females have 13 teets. They play dead so successfully that they will fool a predator, or us, completely. Skunks may feel competititve towards them and drive them off. I have always wanted to see a mother with all her young on her back!

    March 19, 2014 at 1:02 pm

  3. Cris Staubach. CT shoreline

    I had one outside my back door night before last, cleaning up the mess the squirrels had made earlier with the bird food. He seemed a bit small.

    March 19, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    • Claudia Wulff

      I live in an old beach house with a crawl space. I magine my surprise when I opened up my bottom pantry cupboard and had a mature possum great me. He/she was as surprised as I was. Later I discovered a hole in the floor boards.

      March 20, 2014 at 12:23 pm

  4. Susan Shea

    Sometimes when an opossum gets frostbite, pieces of the tail or edges of the ears will fall off.

    March 20, 2014 at 3:25 pm

  5. When I was a child, living in southern Connecticut, ‘our’ possums had not hair on their faces. Can it be that they have been developing hair, as you see in the photograph, to protect the face/head and to increase their northern range?
    We had one we called Possum Dearie a couple of years ago, who enlivened our winter animal viewing. However, toward the end of the winter we found the animal dead, apparently frozen to death. On examination, it appeared to be male, so we apologized post-mortem for the name.
    Neighbors reported that possums can be aggressive, as one got into their chicken coop and killed a couple before being rousted out.

    March 27, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    • I’ve never heard of an opossum with a hairless face! They had hair in Massachusetts where I grew up…if cornered, opossums can be very fierce, and they literally eat just about any and everything, including chickens!

      March 28, 2014 at 5:02 pm

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