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These animals are usually slow moving. When frightened and unable to flee, may fall into an involuntary "shock-like" state, "Playing 'Possum".
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Opossums are a member of the Marsupialia, mammals most commonly found in Australia. Kangaroos, Koalas, and Wombats are wellknown marsupials.
The Virginai opossum is among the most primitive and generalized of marsupials.
An adult is 2-3 feet long and can weigh between 4-12 pounds. It has an elongated snout, pink nose, black eyes, and naked black ears. it's head is usually white and it's coarse body fur is mostly grayish white, but tends to be darker on it's legs.
An opossum is well adapted for climbing. They have feet that are plantigraded (shaped so the animal walks on the soles of it's feet with the heel touching the ground). they have a toe on the hind feet that resembles a thumb and makes them look somewhat like human hands. It's naked scaly tail is able to wrap around and grasp limbs. They can support thier full body weight for short periods of time.
The opossum has 50 teeth, the highest number found in any mammal.
A very good opossum habitat includes a combination of large trees and shrub thickets, abundant water supply, and crop fields. They will den nearly anywhere that is dry, sheltered and safe. Hollow trees, abandon dens of other animals and brush piles are ideal homes. They will use multiple dens within thier home range.
An opossum does not have a method for storing food, and needs food sources that are stable from season to season, year to year. It's diet includes a wide variety of foods, including insects, earthworms, small mammals, fruits, grains, plants, and the flesh of dead annimals it may happen upon. When food becomes depleted in one area, it will simply move to a new area.
Opossums seldom cause problems for homeowners, ranchers or farmers. They sometimes raid trash cans or dog food containers, but these situations are easily delt with by removing the food source. They are threatened by hunters and fur trappers. They are harvested for thier pelts primarily used to trim inexpensive cloth garments. The annual harvest of opossums is roughly around 11,900.
The uniqueness of the opossum intrigues scientists and nature enthusiasts. it is the only marsupial in the United States.
The opossum is short lived. they have a high mortality rate. Fewer than 10% live longer than one year after weaning. Most opossums are killed by hmans, predation, parasites and disease, exposure and starvation. human-caused mortalities include hunting, trapping, and road collisions. Preditors include horned owls, dogs, and cyotes. Opossums are a host to a multitude of internal and external parasites including intestinal worms, fleas, and ticks. An opossum is highly resistant to rabies.
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