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A Passion for Possums

Updated on April 4, 2015
Diane Cass profile image

Diane is a lover of all things beautiful; music, art, antiques and nature. Her guides bring insight to topics she cares passionately about.

Possum in My Crabapple

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America's Most Unique Mammal, the Possum

Possums are adorable. I love possums. I don't understand people who are afraid of them or think they are ugly. A friend of mine once told me that she didn't trust their "beady, little eyes". Well, I beg to differ. I think their dark eyes are sweet. Possums are an underrated, misunderstood creature of the wild, and I aim to help humans try to understand them better.

The opossum is the only marsupial native to North America. They inhabit a unique and unfulfillable niche in our Eco-system. They are mostly beneficial to gardeners and usually don't pose a threat, though you should never handle a wild possum. Learn more about possums and learn to love them as I do.

All photos by Diane Cass. Use only by permission.

Are You a Possum Lover or a Possum Hater?

Are you a lover or a hater? Do you think possums are cute and cuddly or horrid, beady little creatures that scare you?

Mr. Crabby Eating Crabapples

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What is a Marsupial

An opossum is a marsupial. So is a kangaroo. Most of the world's marsupials are Aussies, in fact. Marsupials are unique among all other mammal species. The females have a pouch in which their young are kept safe after birth, until they are fully developed.

Young possums are born in almost a fetal stage. They make a miraculous climb from the womb into the pouch of their mother, where they will stay until weaned. While there, they suckle milk from their mother and grow in a warm, protected environment. Momma possum never has to worry about where her youngsters are, as they are always with her. This works out great, since dad is a deadbeat and takes no part in the raising of his offspring.

When the baby possums are about two to three months old, they leave the safety of their mother's pouch and begin to explore the wide world from her back. From there they learn what fruits, plants and insects are good to eat.

Children's Books on Possums

Educate your children about the marvels of opossums. Creating an understanding is the key to helping this unique American species survive.

Oh, I Can Almost Reach It!

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Possums Love Moonlight

Possums are nocturnal. That means that they work the night shift, sleeping all day and foraging during the night. For this reason, most people never see a possum, unless it is lying dead on the road. Maybe this is where the creepiness some people feel about possums comes from. Personally, a zombie-possum walking around undead would be creepy, but a healthy, live animal is a wonder to be celebrated.

What do possums do all night? They eat...just about anything. Possums are omnivorous. That means they eat both animal and plant material. They relish succulent insects and juicy fruits alike. Especially overripe fruit, that actually can make them a little tipsy. If gardeners can find a way to coexist with them, they can help keep down the population of garden pests like snails, grubs and beetles. Planting prickly squash vines beneath your corn can deter their delicate hands from making a meal of it, and help them focus on bug duty.

The possum pictures in this article are of a possum who lives in our yard...somewhere. We think he resides under our gazebo out back. He has never bothered our garden, and we don't mind him living with us, because he keeps the insect pests in check. In winter, he visits our crabapple trees for a tasty snack...often on broad daylight. I love that our tree feeds so many kinds of wildlife and enjoy watching this little guy feed.

The Possum in Our Crabapple Tree

I shot this video one bright, sunny afternoon. Although possums are usually nocturnal, this one visited our crabapple tree for days, in broad daylight to feast on the crabapples. There was plenty for the birds, deer and other critters. I loved that he chose to visit us and dine at the "table" we set for him.

Introduce Your Child to a Possum

A great way to introduce a child to a wild animal is to give them an animal toy. Stuffed animals are made very realistically these days and can, and should, substitute for the real thing. Wild animals belong in the wild and shouldn't ever be handled or fed by people. makes them dependent on humans in an unnatural way and can lead to them getting killed, either accidentally by cars or pets, or intentionally as a nuisance. Find a great stuffed animal and a good book about opossums to help your child learn to love them.

Have you met a live possum? Where did you meet? What happened? If you've never met a possum, would you like to or not?

Tell Us About Your Possum Experiences

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    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 2 years ago from Liverpool, England

      The only marsupials wild in the UK are, supposedly, wallabies that have escaped from captivity. A shame - a few possums would liven up the forests.

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 3 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      I remember clearly one cold evening hearing a noise in the kitchen and seeing what I though was a rat. Called my husband to deal with what looked like a "strange rat" while my daughter (young at the time) and I peered out watching as he bravely brandished a broom in the direction of the intruder. To our surprise, instead of behaving like a rat the creature snuggled against the broom and looked at us as if we were its friends! We did eventually manage to persuade it to go back outside.