Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Three Opossums

Yesterday, while driving, I saw three dead, roadkilled opossums. The first one was lying on Route 108 as I drove to my dentist in Dover. I thought about that opossum with its 50 teeth as I was having my paltry 27 (I'm missing one) teeth cleaned. My hygienist took a lot of routine x-rays of those 27 teeth. Thank goodness I don't have the possums set of 50, as a routine cleaning would take hours.

I saw the other two dead opossums on roads in western Massachusetts as I was traveling to visit my parents. This odd, cat-sized marsupial is a relative newcomer to New England, but has adapted well to our environs, except to fast-moving cars. Opossums have narrow skulls (and thus small brains) and given their propensity to be killed on roads, some biologists consider them dumb. Yet, opossums can live about anywhere and eat about anything and were around when dinosaurs wandered the earth. Perhaps they are more intelligent than we think.

Opossums have big eyes to aid in their nocturnal wanderings. I often wonder how often all the night-time creatures run into each other -- the opossums, foxes, skunks, coyotes, fishers, and many other nocturnal mammals.

When the bee-sized young possums are born in late spring or early summer they crawl up the mother's belly and into her secure, fur-lined pouch, where they remain suckling for two months. After that they crawl out and start feeding on their own, sometimes riding on their mother's back. Few of the up to 15 in the litter survive, many don't even make it into the pouch just after birth. Yet, enough young survive to make it into adulthood to begin their own wanderings. I hope the next one I see is alive and well and gnashing its 50 teeth on some food item or another.

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