I went looking for kingfishers this afternoon, but found something else instead. Unusual foot prints on the ice…
So I followed the footprints because they looked fairly fresh.
Trying to be quiet (not successfully), I almost walked on the opossum before I saw his bulky body waddling across the snow toward the grassy cover.
The Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is about the size of a house cat, with a sharp snout and teeth, a chubby body, and a naked prehensile tail (like a monkey) used for balance in climbing. They are the only pouched, marsupial mammal in North America, although there are over 100 species in the Didelphid family. They have steadily increased their range, moving west and north, only recently invading Minnesota. Their success is most likely due to their omnivorous diet (i.e., they will eat almost anything), nasty dispositions, and large number of offspring, which remain in the pouch for up to 3 months! Imagine carrying around a dozen little 3-month old possums as you hunt for food.
Opossum also have an unusual behavior which may also contribute to their longevity — they take on the appearance of dead or diseased animals, lying torpid, lips retracted, saliva foaming and dripping from the jaws, unable to be aroused for up to 4 hours. In addition, they emit a foul odor from anal glands, which smells like rotten flesh. Sounds like a pretty good deterrent to being touched or moved.
However, like narcoleptics, opossums don’t seem to have control of this behavior — it’s involuntary. I guess I wasn’t very frightening because my ‘possum just froze for a few minutes and then walked off.