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Posts Tagged ‘Didelphis virginiana’

I was a little shocked to encounter this fuzzy little North American Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) yesterday while walking on a trail through the woods in Bastrop, Texas. The opossum, which is also known as a Virginia Opossum, was in the middle of the trail, walking slowly in my direction.

We spotted each other at about the same time, I think, and we both stopped and looked closely at each other. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to bring my camera up to my eye and take a few shots. Having decided that I was a potential threat, the opossum turned its back to me and slowly waddled into the underbrush, giving me a good look at its hairless tail.

opossum

opossum

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I have been to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge dozens and dozens of times, but had never seen an opossum there until yesterday. I am pretty sure that I would not have seen this one almost hidden in the trees if fellow photographer Ricky Kresslein had not pointed it out to me. Initially I was incredulous, suspecting that he had misidentified a raccoon, but as soon as I looked closely at the animal, I realized he was right.

The Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana), the animal that I photographed, is the only marsupial found in North America north of Mexico. I had to double-check, but was able to confirm my remembrance that a marsupial is an animal with a pouch, like a kangaroo or a koala.

The connection to Australia and New Zealand is occasionally a source of some confusion, because the “possums” in those locations are entirely different species. Here in North American, “opossum” and “possum” are used interchangeably.

One of the most common references to this animal is the expression “playing possum.” In the literal sense, it refers to the Virginia Opossum’s reaction sometimes when threatened—it may roll over, become stiff, drool, breathe slowly and shallowly, and appear to be dead. In a more general sense, the expression has come to mean pretending to be dead or asleep to avoid having to deal with a problem.

Virginia Opossum

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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