When I let the dog out this evening, it didn’t take long for her to start barking. Figuring she had cornered the neighbor’s cat, I went outside and called her. Naturally, she ignored my order to come back into the house.
Angrily, I marched up to her, underneath the crabapple tree, and took her by the collar. I made sure to bend low and look her in the eyes, just to let her know that I was not happy about having to walk in the wet grass to fetch her. When I stood up to lead her back to the house, my head reached into the lower branches of the crabapple tree.
And then I saw it, inches from my face, looking right back at me.
Instinctively, I jumped back. What the hell was that thing? It definitely was bigger than a cat, and it had a freakish, rat-like tail. And it was looking right at me.
I took the dog back into the house. Then, regaining my composure, I grabbed my camera and tripod, intent on capturing the beast on film. By this time I realized that it must be an opossum. I had seen a few as a child when I lived in rural Pennsylvania.
Opossums are harmless and often act like they are dead – “playing possum” – when threatened. They actually go stiff. This one, for example, held itself completely motionless during the eight-second exposure that I used to capture the following photo without flash in the dark Pittsburgh night:
If you check the Wikipedia entry on Virginia Opossum, you’ll see a more ferocious looking specimen, which is how I imagine my opossum looked when I first saw it. Nevertheless, opossums are harmless. If you want to see them at their most cuddly, check out the photos on the PossumRescue.com home page, where I found this little guy:
Local copy so as not to take bandwith from PossumRescue’s server.
(Look at how cute he is. Could you take bandwidth from his server?)
More opossum tidbits:
- Opossums are North America’s only marsupials. They carry their young in pouches, just like kangaroos do.
- Opossums have opposable thumbs on their hind feet.
- When opossums play dead, they enter an involuntary coma and emit a stinky, I-am-dead scent.
Opossums are interesting stuff.