National Possum Awareness Week

With all the other moronic “We just want to raise awareness for <fill in whatever you want here>” things out there all over Facebook… While there ARE a number of great things that people want to raise awareness about, there are a WHOLE lot of idiotic ones – and this one possibly less idiotic than many… Kristty and I saw a possum raiding her garbage bags the other night which brought the whole National Possum Awareness Week idea back to me.  Besides I was clearing the digital camera this morning to get to some pictures for a website I’m working on and ran across my snaps of Stumpy…

Spring is approaching and with it the budding of the trees, the smell of the awakening land and the rustling of trash bags… Wait, what?

National Possum Awareness Week

Possum Awareness Week

Possum Awareness Week

I’m proposing the week of April 1st as National Possum Awareness Week. North America’s own marsupial. Grabber of nighttime garbage bags. Plodding furry fakers of death.  And besides, they’re just downright cute. Raccoons? Ha!  Just because they have a little mask and all that, they’re a heck of a lot nastier than the humble possum.  So, why the heck not?

Oh sure, most of you only see possums as something to be run over on the road, or think that blacktop seems to be their natural habitat apparently – they aren’t and it’s not.  These warm furry creatures are so much more than turkey vulture fodder.  You find these creatures, a bit bigger than most of my cats, scurrying around in our North Carolina evenings. They frequently have visited my home when I have left food outside for a stray cat or two.  They’ll quietly trot around your yard looking for food – and they will eat most anything – including all those things that make your cringe. Spiders, snakes, slugs, MICE, generally anything that they can. They seem to have remarkably good survival instincts.

Nocturnal creatures by nature, you won’t find possums  (also known as “opossums” but since we usually pronounce it as “possums” we’ll just stick with “possum(s)” without the leading “o”) out roaming in the daylight.  Occasionally, they WILL get rousted by other animals or kids, but for the most part – they NEED their daily beauty sleep. When you run across them at night, they don’t usually run off real quick.  They do NOT like being cornered I CAN tell you that. They tend to greet you with a loud hissing should you attempt to do so. A growl if they’re a little more p*ssed off about your presence. Trust me.

“Playing Possum”

National Possum Awareness Week

National Possum Awareness Week

If you go TOO far, they will actually “play possum” – hence the phrase. Since I don’t really want to have to go get rabies shots, I haven’t actually tested this out, but possums involuntarily will basically pass out on you when truly threatened.  Lips drawn back, slobbering and eyes about half shut, they’ll look like they’re dead or at least well on their way. This will last from half an hour on up to several hours. So if you’ve scared the bejeezus out of a possum and he drops, he’s going to be there a while. You haven’t actually scared him to death – though it may look and smell like it – anal glands in action.  He’ll eventually come to and amble off quietly.

Possums also seem to be pretty predictable.  Stumpy, pictured here, used to visit around 8:30 pm every night like clockwork.  My front porch was probably the first stop in his evening walk.  I could turn down the TV and wait for the rattling of the dish as he fished out the cat food with his long snout.  I don’t think the possum snout is particularly well developed for fishing cat food out of bowls, but it seems to work for them. At least Stumpy never complained. Stumpy had a bit of a limp – with a slightly malformed foot – poor little fellow.  I stopped short of hand-feeding him, but he got pretty comfy with the idea of being watched while he ate. He pretty much completely ignored the cats with only a sidewards glance as he trotted over to their cat food bowl.  Driven and focused.  I like that in a possum.

The Urban Spoon for Possums

Their favorite place is pretty much your yard.  Possums love all the things that really annoy you – snails, slugs, spiders, mice, snakes – they pretty much will eat anything.  So if you want to get rid of all those things, show a little love to your possum friends!  But they REALLY love rotten fruit. Give ’em a treat, throw out your old fruit in the backyard for a little possum feast. Hey, possums need love too!

My house seemed actually to be possum central for a while.  One night I flipped on the outside light and saw three different possums roaming my backyard – probably waiting their chance to get to the cat food.  Apparently they like fruit – and of course, my garbage.  Whatever organic goodies seem to be in a garbage bag mistakenly left on the back porch are usually found pretty quickly.  Thank goodness it didn’t go to waste and of course I NEEDED the exercise gathering up the scattered debris from my backyard. Those possums just KNOW what the right course of action is any any situation.

“That possum is probably rabid!”

Not.  The stray dog you see roaming the neighborhood is about 8 times more likely than a possum to have rabies. Their body temperature is only 94-97 degrees which is not particularly hospitable to the rabies virus. Also as a side note, they handle snake bites pretty well. They’re pretty much immune to snakebites from any of our indigenous snakes.

Possum Awareness

So, let’s raise awareness for these often misunderstood and maligned creatures! As the only North American marsupial – why the heck not?  I’ve seen worse reasons to raise awareness. Besides they are SO darned cute!  Well, at least in my opinion.  Make a possum’s night – leave him some rotted fruit in your backyard the week of April 1!

For more information about how to help possums – visit the Opossum Society of the United States


Author: Eric Erickson

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