Possum Information Center

Posted: May 6, 2011 in Live Music

The name “opossum” is derived from an Algonquian Indian word “apasum”, meaning white animal. While there are over 65 species of opossums, only one, the Didelphis virginiana, more commonly known as the Virginia opossum, is native to North America. Didelphis means double womb and refers to the pouch as a secondary place of development for the infant opossums. Virginiana refers to the state of Virginia where the opossum was first observed by early English colonists. However, opossums today can be found throughout most of the United States and portions of Canada and Mexico.

The opossum has many interesting features. It has 50 teeth, more than any North American land mammal. Its hairless tail is prehensile and is used for grasping branches, balancing and carrying nesting material. The opossum does not hang upside down by the tail, a common misconception. The opossum also has opposable thumbs on its hind feet for holding onto branches.

Whether rural, residential or in the wilderness, opossums are a benefit to any area they inhabit. Their diet includes all types of bugs and insects including cockroaches, crickets and beetles. They love snails. They also eat mice and rats. The nocturnal opossum is attracted to our neighborhoods by the availability of water, pet food left out at night and overripe, rotting fruit that has fallen from trees. The opossum in turn helps keep our neighborhoods clean and free of unwanted, harmful garden pests and rodents, which may carry diseases. The opossum has earned the title of “Nature’s Little Sanitation Engineer.”

From our Friend Jack Frost:

“I saw the following excerpt in Gary Bogue’s nature column in the Sunday, April 24 West County Times. 
Dear Gary:  I saw a creature I’d never seen before in Berkeley, on Shattuck Avenue near Ashby (busy streets!) near a house.  It was small, furry and blond, with black ears and a long skinny tail.  It peeked at me, stopped, slowly backtracked and hid between two trash bins.  I stopped and peeked at it, and thought it might be an opossum.  I thought they were gray furred creatures, so could it be someone’s blond pet?  –Colleen Houlihan, Berkeley.

Dear Colleen:  Sounds like a white opossum.  They’re around the Bay Area.  Their fur varies from white to blond with black ears.  It’s not a pet.

Thanks Jack–this should comfort the people who question the veracity of my Possum At Night portrait.  –Laurie <“m~ family singers

graphics copyright and courtesy batcactus.wordpress.com

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