When awake a
possum is invariably hungry. Home owners have found that this night raider of
the compost heap is omnivorous. In fact, a possum will eat anything, including
some items which couldn't be classed as food. Harold C. Reynolds, who studied
possums in Missouri, proved this when he listed items found in their stomachs.
Part of this disgusting list follows:
frogs, crawfish, hens' eggs, grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches, stink bugs,
tiger beetles, wasps, moths, ants, persimmons, grapes, blackberries, slugs,
rabbits, moles, house cat, meadow mouse, fox squirrel, opossum (ugh!),
blue-tailed skink, fence lizard, timothy, alfalfa, clover, winter wheat and
Cellophane. Indications were that the mammals in this ghastly diet were eaten
somebody catches a possum and tries to make a pet of it. This is just about
hopeless because of the unresponsive nature of the animal. It just isn't
bright. Scientists agree, in fact, that the possum is the dumbest mammal in
North America. Its brain case is about the size of the bobbin on a sewing
machine and it can't even see very well.
the possum is interesting. Being a marsupial or pouched mammal, the females
carry their young in an abdominal pouch like the kangaroos of Australia. It is
the only marsupial in North America. There were two species recognized but they
are now judged to be one and the same animal, dubbed scientifically as
The pouch of the
possum is lined with fur and inside it there are normally 13 teats. When the
young are born after a gestation period of only 13 days they are still
embryonic; half-formed, hairless things so tiny that a whole litter can be put
in a thimble. Despite this, these mites crawl through the fur on the mother's
belly, find their way into the pouch and each attaches itself to one of the
nipples. A litter may number as many as 20 but only those which find nipples
After 50 to 60
days in the pouch the young emerge and travel with the mother for a time,
clinging to her fur. But as early as two weeks after one litter is weaned a
second gang is born and takes up residence in the pouch. Even in northerly
sections the possum frequently has two litters a year.
Its fertility and
its catholic appetite are two good reasons why the possum is able to prosper on
its northward trek. Despite its bare tail, thin ears and scantily haired feet
it keeps trudging northward, eating anything it can find. One old possum that
comes to my compost pile has about half of his tail missing. Others have
reported this on numerous occasions and it is believed the tails have been
frozen off. Some have been seen with ears warped and split from frostbite.
They have wandered
all the way up to Ontario now but scientists feel that they probably have gone
about as far as they can go. Somewhere up there they will run into a mean
temperature below which no possum can survive. Just where that is on the map
has not been ascertained. They'll have to leave that to the possum himself.
residents of various parts of the country are accepting the animal with mixed
emotions. Some don't like their garbage thrown around and feel the critter
ought to go back where it came from. Others think it is nice to have them
around to clean things up, a sort of animated Disposall. There are few who are
not intrigued in some way.