Saturday, May 15, 2010

Something Gross but Amazing in My Backyard

I looked outside the other morning about 6:50 AM. I saw something strange on our back fence and squealed loud enough to wake up Tom and Luke and make them run down the stairs. I could see that it was a possum, but I thought to be out in the sunlight and to be scaling our fence so slowly, it must have been sick. My first thought was that she had the mange. Isn't that weird. Isn't that just for dogs?
But as my whole family peered out our sliding glass door, we noticed other tiny sets of eyes and feet... 7 of them to be exact. Six on her back and one that had fallen in our backyard.
We sat there in awe as we watched a mother in distress muster every bit of courage she had to continue tiptoeing down the fence through the neighborhood. We were a concern to her, but not as big a concern as the dog on the other side of the fence or her little baby who was calling out to her in obvious panic. Her biggest difficulty though, was making her way across a 1/2 inch wide fence top, while her babies were literally dripping down her sides. My best guess is that she tried to move the youngens while it was still dark, but the task took longer than she estimated and she got caught as the sun came up.... exposed and scared, though not daunted from the task that lie ahead of her.
If you look closely at this picture, you can clearly see two baby faces, but she also has one on her neck and two hanging very low, one on her front leg, the other on her rear end. Not sure where the other one is hiding...
I normally would be totally grossed out at the site of this rodent-looking animal, but to see her vying for survival with all her might along with the sight of those little baby opossum, I have to say it was pretty amazing. I didn't want to get a gun and shoot her, though I may have second thoughts when we have a dozen possums rummaging through our trash!

Post Note: After I left for school that morning, Ellie and Luke watched as the baby made his way from the ground to the top of the fence and down the way to his mother who had only moved about 30 feet down the fence in the span of nearly an hour.

I did a little fact-finding on the opossum, and if you are interested, here are some gross but amazing things I never knew about possums....

  • Opossums are the only marsupial native to North America.
  • Opossums are excellent climbers using their hands, feet and tail to grasp.
  • They mate once a year, but have two litters: one in spring and one in late summer - the theory is the 2nd pregnancy is delayed.
  • Newborn babies are the size of a bumblebee.
  • Gestation period is a very fast 13 days
  • As many as 25 babies are born and make their way into the pouch
  • The first 13 babies that attach to a nipple survive - mama can only accommodate 13 babies in her pouch
  • Babies spend two months in the pouch continuing their development
  • Once out of the pouch, babies ride on top of mom, hanging onto her fur
  • Opossums are immune to rattle snake venom, rabies and distemper
  • While "playing possum," they emit a smelly substance from their anal gland which smells like rotten meat. This makes the opossum appear to be a rotting carcass and most predators will not eat him.
  • Opossums have a peaceful nature and will avoid confrontations, but they will bite if provoked as a defensive
  • They have 52 teeth - more than any other mammal in North America

10 Wonderful Responses:

dishinanddishes said...

Oh goodness..the babies DO make a difference but they sure do creep me out. We had one on our fence last year. My son was shooting at it with an air gun (little pellets) and it wouldn't move. Two days later, it showed up in our garage and the entire neighborhood stood around with brooms and shovels just in case it ran in their direction while my husband tried to get it out. Ewww!

Abiding Branch said...

Wow! You know I have to admit that their coat is really pretty! Thank you for sharing those amazing facts even if it is sad about the babies who don't make it. :(
btw, great pictures!!

momof4kr said...

Eeeeewwwwww! Like you, I am so torn about what to feel...

On the plus side: Good times for the kids. :)

On the down side: What's gonna happen next?! :(

Baloney said...

I love these pictures! Not grossed out at all.
I think my boys emit that same smell. :)

Dawn said...

OMG! That's so cool. I'm glad it was in your backyard instead of mine though. LOL!

Love that you were able to catch those pictures.

Valerie said...

Too cool! Thanks for sharing the story and the pictures, and especially the facts. I had no idea about all of those facts, and now that I know, I don't think I'm as creeped out by them as I used to be. More like amazed by these little mamas!

Shannon said...

Hi Annie! I'm still here. I think. Have been reading along - but just light on the comments. Not a big possum fan meself, but always have a soft spot for mommas doing the best they can. Cool pictures!

ellen said...

LOVE this! Just what I needed today! :-)

Anonymous said...

Annie, these are amazing pictures and I loved reading all of the facts. Heaven knows that we have our share of possums out here on the farm. Now I know more about them and I must say it changes my outlook on possums. Mom

Audra Krell said...

Wow! I didn't expect this when I popped over early this morning! It's fascinating though...what incredible photos. And the facts you looked up, I cannot believe they are immune to rattlesnakes. I learned a lot this morning, if not having my appetite curbed for the day! : ) Hope you are having a good week Annie!