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Nature Blog Network
Tuesday, March 6, 2007

opossum 02


Virginia OpossumDidelphis virginiana – also known as opossum d’Amérique (French), and Tlacuache norteño (Spanish).

According to the Smithsonian, “the Virginia opossum, the only marsupial found north of Mexico, is an adaptable omnivore at home on the ground and in the trees. Opossums prefer forested habitats, but they are quite successful even in urban areas. They are active at night, year-round.” I don’t know what this guy was doing outside during the day. I was told that only when these animals get sick do they venture out in daylight like this.

Photo taken with the Canon Digital Rebel XT / 350D and a Sigma 70-300mm Lens at Scott County Park, Davenport, Iowa, March 4, 2007.

Posted by: Mike in: Iowa,Mammals at 6:34 pm

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  • Claudeus

    FYI nocturnal animals such as opossums and raccoons are often out during daylight hours if they haven’t found enough food during their night foraging.

    Opossums often are out during daylight in the winter months, and you’ll often see them extending their foraging before sunset and after sunrise during the summer months as well. If it’s a hard winter an opossum will den up for several days at a time only coming out to eat when absolutely necessary. Unfortunately necessary means every 3-5 days, and if that happens to be during bitterly cold conditions, they risk frostbite on their thin ears and their tale, which this one looks to have recent damage to the ears. Since it’s winter I’d say he’s out during daylight because he was unable to find enough food during the night and needs to eat. This one actually looks very healthy other than those ears, his coat is good, eye’s are good, etc. he’s not sick. Opossums have several parasites (like all animals) but rarely suffer from illness or disease, including rabies. It’s theorized that their body temperature is to low to sustain the rabies virus. Although they are still listed by the CDC as a rabies vector species, there has never been a single documented case of opossum rabies. Opossums are currently studied for their immunity to all manner of lethal poisons, from the deadliest snake venom to scorpions, etc. and may eventually provide humanity with anti-venom serums better than those currently in use. Possums are North America’s only marsupial, and a highly beneficial species. They are natures sanitation workers wandering around cleaning up all manner of garbage; most notably including eating destructive bugs and rodents, which makes them a welcome addition in urban neighborhoods. In urban neighborhoods they have no bad habits such as digging under things or climbing into attics, etc. as they only den in winter and only in abandoned burrows made by more destructive digging critters. They rarely stay in one location for more than a few days, and only if they have to due to harsh weather. They birth their babies on the go, and keep them with them in their pouch instead of a nest site. Sure they eat the cat, or dog, or bird food, or people garbage that’s left outside laying around, but so does every other critter that can find it. The opossum is a docile and complex creature, one who is most beneficial to humans and our habitats. And if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m an opossum fan and rehabber.

    For raccoon’s it’s most common during baby season when food is scarce and she’s nursing her kits. She’s often forced to forage during daylight because she’s basically starved since nursing those ravenous kits has now depleted her stored fat reservoir. So yeah, seeing a coon out in daylight is actually not unusual unless it’s in the middle of summer. And of course if it’s stumbling or unsteady on it’s feet, lying down, obviously injured, or otherwise acting oddly including showing no fear of anything, then that’s a different matter. But note that we do not have problems with raccoon rabies as of 2009 in the state of IA.

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