The Opossum: Our Marvelous Marsupial

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

I’ve always had an infectious sense of wonder when it comes to close encounters with wildlife, but sometimes the very best encounters are totally unexpected, and it’s often with creatures that never seem to make anyone’s “must-see” list.

It was an unusually warm, snowless winter day at the end of January. I had just sprawled out on the ground with my camera resting on a fallen tree to position it for the best angle to photograph a beaver lodge at the edge of a secluded cedar swamp. Slight rustling in the dry leaves drew my attention. I turned to my left and an inquisitive young opossum was just a few feet away—not playing dead, not backing off, and not advancing. It watched me ever so intently as we both moved slightly about for better views of each other. The opossum inched closer and then we were eye to eye. It seemed to freeze in place. So did I. Continue reading

The Virginia Opossum: Oakland County’s Mysterious Marsupial

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY3209

What animal lived during the age of the dinosaurs, gives birth 13 days after a honeymoon, has thumbs on their hind feet and is falsely accused of being, a big ugly rat? If you guessed Didelphis virginiana, the Virginia opossum, you are right. The opossum is the only marsupial found in North America; Oakland County is home for hundreds, if not thousands of these amazing omnivores. The Virginia Opossum has fifty teeth (the most of any mammal) and feeds on almost anything and everything. They will hunt, kill and eat mice and rats and relish rotting road kill and crunchy cockroaches. Bird eggs, berries, beetles, frogs, fish and fruits of all sorts are also on the delicacy list. Don’t forget to add snakes, slugs and snails too. To put it simply, if it produces a scent, the opossum will eat it. Continue reading