Appalachian Thursday — Playing O-possum
I let Thistle out for her final constitutional before bed recently and the light from the open door fell on, of all things, a young opossum. Thistle hurried to investigate and thankfully seemed content to just sniff the little critter. The opossum was less content and hissed with its mouth wide open until Thistle moved on.
Since then, we’ve seen it scavenging for seed under the bird feeder a couple of times and yesterday I got some decent photos. At this rate, we’ll have to name it.
When I mentioned my encounter to some friends, they confessed to pronouncing the “o” at the beginning of opossum, which, I told them, was wrong. After a bit of research, however, I learned that it’s fine to pronounce the “o,” just maybe not in West Virginia.
Opossum are almost legendary in my home state–mostly for being fried, fricasseed, stewed, etc. I have never personally eaten one and I don’t advise it. They’re carrion eaters and, well, you are what you eat.
There was a man back home who bought pelts–including opossum–and then sold them to a furrier in New York. In true waste-not-want-not style he often ate the animals he’d relieved of their fur coats–including opossum. Until one Sunday dinner he offered his hound dogs some leftover fried opossum and they turned up their noses. He reckoned if a dog wouldn’t eat it, neither would he.
I say that’s just plain smart.
- They’re the only marsupial native to the U.S.
- They can have 15 or more babies, but many don’t survive.
- Living to be four is a ripe, old age for an opossum.
- “Playing opossum” is involuntary and it can take as long as a couple of hours for them to wake back up.
- In addition to appearing dead, they secrete a stinky fluid that makes them smell dead.
- They don’t hang from their tails (it isn’t strong enough), but they do use it as a stabilizer.
- They have amazing immune systems that make them resistant to rabies and snake bites.
- They have 50 teeth–the most of any mammal.
- One of their major predators is–you guessed it–cars.