A Possum, Playing Possum.

  

Category:  Other

By:  dig  •  3 months ago  •  65 comments

A Possum, Playing Possum.

Earlier, I let my dog Polly out for an evening bathroom visit, and when I went to call her back in she wouldn't come.

I slipped on some shoes, went out after her, and discovered what was keeping her. She had apparently surprised a possum out by the bird feeders, so much so that it went into "apparent death" as a defense mechanism instead of trying to run off — otherwise known as playing possum.

From Wikipedia:


Apparent death , colloquially known as playing dead , feigning death , or playing possum , is a behavior in which animals take on the appearance of being dead . This form of animal deception is an adaptive behavior also known as tonic immobility or thanatosis . Apparent death can be used as a defense mechanism or as a form of aggressive mimicry , and occurs in a wide range of animals.

******

Playing possum - If threatened, an opossum will either flee or take a stand. To appear threatening, an opossum will first bare its fifty teeth, snap its jaw, hiss, drool, and stand its fur on end to look bigger. [18]  If this does not work, the Virginia opossum is noted for  feigning death  in response to extreme fear. [19]  This is the genesis of the term " playing possum ", which means pretending to be dead or injured with intent to deceive. [20]  The reaction is involuntary and triggered by extreme fear. [19]  In this inactive state it lies limp and motionless on its side, mouth and eyes open, tongue hanging out, and feet clenched. [18]  Fear can also cause the opossum to release a green fluid from its anus whose putrid odor repels predators. [19] [21]  Heart rate drops by half, and breathing rate is so slow and shallow it is hardly detectable. [18]  Death feigning normally stops when the threat withdraws, and it can last for several hours. [18] [21]  Besides discouraging animals that eat live prey, playing possum also convinces some large animals that the opossum is no threat to their young. [19]  "Playing possum" in response to threats from oncoming traffic often results in death. [22]

It's such a rare thing to see (at least in my experience), that I coaxed Polly back inside, grabbed the camera, took a few shots, and then started taking video to see if I could catch the process of him "coming back from the dead."

Well, I succeeded! I only had to wait about 10 minutes, too.

The images were taken with the camera flash on, but I had to use a flashlight for the video.

I played around with some editing software and made a little movie out of the video. Hope you guys like it, especially if you've never seen a possum playing possum before.

I know he looks kind of nasty, but possums around here always look kind of nasty, and they look even nastier than usual when they're wet from rain and playing dead, apparently.

original

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The video is just under 2 minutes long...


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Dig
Senior Guide
1  author  Dig    3 months ago

Something different, rare, and interesting on a Monday night...

 
 
 
Raven Wing
Professor Principal
1.1  Raven Wing  replied to  Dig @1    3 months ago

Indeed it is all those Dig. That opossum can really play opossum. jrSmiley_91_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
pat wilson
Professor Guide
2  pat wilson    3 months ago

Ha ha, that was kinda creepy. Glad Polly didn't get too involved.

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
2.1  author  Dig  replied to  pat wilson @2    3 months ago
Ha ha, that was kinda creepy.

LOL.  Making movies is fun. jrSmiley_4_smiley_image.png

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.1.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Dig @2.1    3 months ago

You did a fantastic job with that - and it is the first time that a member-created video has played through for me without a hitch - perfect.

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
2.1.2  author  Dig  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.1.1    3 months ago

Glad to hear. I was hoping it would stream well. I rendered it in a few different resolutions, and the lowest one still looked decent so that's the one I posted.

 
 
 
dennis smith
Senior Silent
2.1.3  dennis smith  replied to  Dig @2.1.2    2 months ago

First class article

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
3  Perrie Halpern R.A.    3 months ago

I think this is so cool. I have never seen a possum actually playing dead. What a great find for you. 

Btw... some cool facts about possums:

  • They are the only marsupials found in N. America. They are also called opossums but only in N. America.
  • They emit a smell when they play dead to sell the deal.
  • They eat the ticks that cause Lyme disease. They can eat over 5,000 of them in a season.
  • They have outstanding memories.
  • They are immune to most snake venom. We get most of our antivenoms from them.
  • They almost never get rabies. Their lower body temperatures don't provide a good place for the virus to thrive.
  • They have prehensile tails which means they can use it to hang from.
  • They are very personally clean (unlike the pic you took).
  • They are very social animals.
  • Their eyes have white irises. 
  • They have a very complicated reproductive system. Females have two vaginal tracts and two uteri, and males have a forked or bifurcated penis.

Btw... here is a pic of a clean possum. They are kind of cute. 

512

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
3.1  author  Dig  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3    3 months ago

Hey, cool info, Perrie. I didn't know most of that.

  • They are very personally clean (unlike the pic you took).

Gotta say, I've seen quite a few possums in my time and I don't think I've ever seen a clean one. They always look grubby when I see them.

Are you sure that's a North American possum? It doesn't look quite right to me. The eyes and fur seem wrong somehow. Then again, maybe that's just because it's clean.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
3.1.1  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Dig @3.1    3 months ago

I am sure. Here, check out all the pics of them:

 
 
 
zuksam
Sophomore Silent
3.1.2  zuksam  replied to  Dig @3.1    3 months ago
They always look grubby when I see them.

If they're eating trash then they get nasty from the trash cans.

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
3.1.3  author  Dig  replied to  zuksam @3.1.2    3 months ago

I've only ever seen them in the country. Maybe it's just the wild population around here that always looks grubby. Local genetics or something.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Principal
3.1.4  sandy-2021492  replied to  Dig @3.1.3    3 months ago

They look pretty grubby here, too.  Not nearly as cute as the one in the pic Perrie posted.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
3.1.5  TᵢG  replied to  sandy-2021492 @3.1.4    3 months ago

Well when I see an opossum here, I find them to be very cute because they eat ticks and moles.      jrSmiley_81_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Principal
3.1.6  sandy-2021492  replied to  TᵢG @3.1.5    3 months ago

I appreciate them for that, but still can't find them cute.

They're very un-cute when I have to go out at 4:30 in the damn morning because a potty trip for my dog ends up with me trying to catch him and drag him out of the shrubs without either him or me getting torn up by a possum.  You'd think the possums would learn to stay away, but they keep coming back.

 
 
 
devangelical
PhD Principal
3.2  devangelical  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3    3 months ago
Females have two vaginal tracts and two uteri, and males have a forked or bifurcated penis.

really teacher? you couldn't have just left it at ...

They have a very complicated reproductive system.
 
 
 
zuksam
Sophomore Silent
3.3  zuksam  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3    3 months ago
They have a very complicated reproductive system. Females have two vaginal tracts and two uteri,

Also when their babies are born they're tiny like newborn baby mice and their rear legs are undeveloped and have to climb into the mothers pouch to survive, at this point they're almost embryonic. There's a particular video on YouTube titled "possum babies" 2:42m that shows a dead mother with very young babies in her pouch, most of the vids I found showed older babies and this was the only one that showed babies under a week old.

 
 
 
MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
Sophomore Principal
3.4  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3    3 months ago

I knew most of that... the only one I did NOT know was about the snake venom.

They are truly amazing creatures. I think they're kinda cute most of the time.

Vultures are similar in the cleanliness factor and most don't know that either... some groom each other following their feasting on a dead animal. I watched something on Animal Planet where they featured vultures and the guy doing the interview was amazed that these Vultures smelled like clean laundry. Granted, not all of them smell quite like that... I wish I could find the video.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
3.5  CB   replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3    2 months ago

It is a horrible looking creature. They (and raccoons) 'trouble' the suburbs (we have wild areas nearby). I had one walk out of a tree I was absent-mindedly spraying one time. On another occasion I could see one nesting (and later waking for the night) in the same set of trees from our sun-room. It yawned uninhibitedly. (Ugh!)

Then there was the time the raccoons 'shat' on the roof. And, we captured one. We let it go. It was a real trip. Make a god-awful 'bark' after it heaped itself over the fence. (Ugh!) Horrible beast!

 
 
 
zuksam
Sophomore Silent
3.5.1  zuksam  replied to  CB @3.5    2 months ago

When I was a kid everyone used 55 gallon steel drums for trash and we had lots of Possums, Raccoons, and Skunks eating garbage. Now we all use big plastic containers with flip-top lids that get picked up by the robotic arm on the garbage truck. The animals can't get in these unless they can knock it over and if it's full they can't do that so they've basically given up on trash and stay in the woods. We rarely see them now or smell the skunks which back in the day you could smell as they walked through your yard at night if your window was open.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
3.5.2  CB   replied to  zuksam @3.5.1    2 months ago

My goodness, the skunks (and the snakes) don't haunt my area! We have these "amazing" unscalable garbage cans and safety robotic lifts you mention. It takes a really strong wind to even lid the top open inhumanly. Though the top itself is lightweight! I love these containers which are safe for the workers too!

But the possums, and especially the raccoons, are well-known to us (as their is a creek from the countryside to the 'burbs'), as they walk over looking for the fruit trees and home gardens. My best friend has an excellent backyard garden and fruits and nut trees and he is 'plagued' by squirrels and raccoons!

It's always something, isn't it?

 
 
 
zuksam
Sophomore Silent
3.5.3  zuksam  replied to  CB @3.5.2    2 months ago

It's the Creek, Possums and Raccoons love Crayfish. They like fish and frogs too but they absolutely love the crayfish.

 
 
 
CB
Professor Principal
3.5.4  CB   replied to  zuksam @3.5.3    2 months ago

Then, we're probably stuck with them!

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
Professor Principal
4  Bob Nelson    3 months ago

Wonderful video! Thanks very much.

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
4.1  author  Dig  replied to  Bob Nelson @4    3 months ago

YW. Glad you liked it.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Principal
5  sandy-2021492    3 months ago

Huh.  My dog corners and trees possums all the time, but I've never seen one actually play possum.  Glad you caught this on video.

 
 
 
devangelical
PhD Principal
5.1  devangelical  replied to  sandy-2021492 @5    3 months ago

my little sister, the feral, stray, and pregnant cat magnet of south texas, had one as a quasi pet years ago. it showed up mixed in with a batch of kittens when mommie cat decided to move her brood from under the house closer to the food dish. it hung around for a few years and she said she would have kept it if it had learned to use the cat box.

 
 
 
bccrane
Freshman Silent
5.2  bccrane  replied to  sandy-2021492 @5    3 months ago

My brother's dog corners them as well, but unfortunately for the possums, the way he determines when their dead is when bones are being crunched.

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
5.2.1  author  Dig  replied to  bccrane @5.2    3 months ago
My brother's dog corners them as well, but unfortunately for the possums, the way he determines when their dead is when bones are being crunched.

It doesn't seem like much of a defense mechanism, does it?

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
5.2.2  Trout Giggles  replied to  Dig @5.2.1    3 months ago

No, it doesn't. My father (RIP) used to squash their heads when he found them playing "dead". His only excuse was they were ugly. Good thing I was kinda cute when I was born.

If dad were here today I would tell him just how wrong that was

 
 
 
MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
Sophomore Principal
5.2.3  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)  replied to  Trout Giggles @5.2.2    3 months ago

jrSmiley_19_smiley_image.gif That sucks.

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
5.3  author  Dig  replied to  sandy-2021492 @5    3 months ago

I think I've only seen a possum playing dead once before, and I'd never witnessed one waking up from it until last night. Glad I didn't have to wait long. I was getting cold and about to give up when he started moving.

I wonder how going into a catatonic state like that affects them, whether their bodies hurt when waking up from it or not. It took him a little while to collect himself and get the juices flowing again before he walked off.

Cool to see, though. A first for me.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
6  Kavika     3 months ago

Great video, Dig. 

We have our local opossum around here as well, I'll see one every one and a while. 

They are a very cool critter.

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
6.1  author  Dig  replied to  Kavika @6    3 months ago

Thanks, Kav.

 
 
 
Thomas
Freshman Guide
7  Thomas    3 months ago

I have never before actually seen one playing possum.  I have seen them occasionally in the dog food bag, but that ball of teeth and fur was NOT playing possum by any stretch of the imagination.

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
7.1  author  Dig  replied to  Thomas @7    3 months ago

They can look dangerous when they're baring all those teeth at you, can't they? I've seen them do that a few times.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
7.1.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  Dig @7.1    3 months ago

They have a growl that would scare away coyotes

 
 
 
Thomas
Freshman Guide
7.1.2  Thomas  replied to  Dig @7.1    3 months ago

I tell you that I was not about to stick my bare hand in the bag to remove it! 

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Principal
7.1.3  sandy-2021492  replied to  Dig @7.1    3 months ago
They can look dangerous when they're baring all those teeth at you, can't they?

They sure do.  I understand they're actually pretty timid, but they sure don't look timid.

 
 
 
evilgenius
Professor Participates
8  evilgenius    3 months ago

Nice! I haven't actually ever seen a possum in person. Now if we're talking porcupines... 

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
8.1  author  Dig  replied to  evilgenius @8    3 months ago

Pretty sure I've never seen a porcupine in person. We're even, lol.

 
 
 
MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
Sophomore Principal
8.2  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)  replied to  evilgenius @8    3 months ago

My husband told me a funny story about a porcupine that destroyed their homemade outhouse (a bucket with a toilet seat attached surrounded by wooden walls and a wooden door on a hinge) on the state land he and his buddies used to hunt on. From what I understand, the year they built it and the next were fine, but the year after that, they heard some rustling from said outhouse while they were setting up camp. His buddy opened up the door, made eye contact with the porcupine, and slammed the door as quickly as possible. One of the other guys grabbed his hunting rifle and the guy that originally opened the outhouse door, opened the door and BOOM... porcupine was dead. The entire interior of the outhouse had needles in it, there were holes in the sides from it making a home, and of course the rifle put a decent hole into it... plus the mess of the dead porcupine too. They ended up just burning the whole thing. In the city... not too many porcupines.

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
8.2.1  author  Dig  replied to  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka) @8.2    3 months ago
One of the other guys grabbed his hunting rifle and the guy that originally opened the outhouse door, opened the door and BOOM... porcupine was dead.

That was a bit harsh, wasn't it? Not exactly a mortal threat. Why didn't they just leave the door open for it and let the poor thing go?

 
 
 
MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
Sophomore Principal
8.2.2  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)  replied to  Dig @8.2.1    3 months ago

I agree that it was harsh... I wasn't there. Hell, my husband wasn't even a part of it... he just happened to be there. I think that my husband's buddies got scared and didn't know what to do. I think that maybe they worried about it getting into one of the pop-ups they were staying in and the fact that they were about 50 miles from a hospital.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
8.2.3  Trout Giggles  replied to  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka) @8.2.2    3 months ago

My dad had a dog that got a quill in his nose. Poor dog suffered but Dad got it out with a pair of needle nosed pliers

 
 
 
MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
Sophomore Principal
8.2.4  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)  replied to  Trout Giggles @8.2.3    3 months ago

Ouch! 

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
9  Trout Giggles    3 months ago

I had a tiny possum this spring that I kept fed with cat food. He (or she) got bigger and started getting meaner with the cats. I like having around because they are good for the environment

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
9.1  author  Dig  replied to  Trout Giggles @9    3 months ago

Is it still hanging around?

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
9.1.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  Dig @9.1    3 months ago

I see it every now and then. When it was little it used to scare off the raccoons who tried to eat its breakfast. He was a brave little fella

 
 
 
Split Personality
PhD Principal
9.1.2  Split Personality  replied to  Trout Giggles @9.1.1    3 months ago

They also keep away tree rats and mice, which they will eat if they catch them.

 
 
 
MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
Sophomore Principal
10  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)    3 months ago

I love possums. jrSmiley_93_smiley_image.jpg

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
11  Kavika     3 months ago

When we lived in Missouri our neighbor's cat went after an opossum. Possum has some wicked teeth witch the cat learned the hard way. A trip to the vet ensued and the cat had to be stitched up.

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
11.1  author  Dig  replied to  Kavika @11    3 months ago

Yikes!

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
11.2  Trout Giggles  replied to  Kavika @11    3 months ago

Poor kitty!

 
 
 
Ender
PhD Principal
12  Ender    3 months ago

I like them but they are kinda mean. In my old house, one evening I found two baby possums on the front porch. They were on the railing with their tails wrapped around it.

If I tried to get close they would hiss at me. They were cute, just probably scared to death.

The next morning I couldn't find them.

About a week later I was working in the backyard and came across a skeleton of what I believe was the mother.

They have some wicked teeth.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
13  TᵢG    3 months ago

Nicely done!

We have opossums on our property but I have never tried to capture them on video (rare to spot too).   I would like to encourage more because they help eliminate ticks and moles.

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
13.1  author  Dig  replied to  TᵢG @13    3 months ago

If you want to encourage them, start leaving some cheap pet food out for them at night. You'll either get possums or raccoons. Then again, you might get more mice around, too, so maybe that's not such a great idea.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
13.1.1  TᵢG  replied to  Dig @13.1    3 months ago

Good thought.   We get raccoons here already.   But I can always try on the site where I tend to see opossums emerge.

 
 
 
charger 383
PhD Quiet
14  charger 383    3 months ago

The dogs caught a possum and paraded around with it, left it lay on the deck when they came back inside It came back to life and walked away

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
14.1  author  Dig  replied to  charger 383 @14    3 months ago

Lucky possum. I guess playing dead can work from time to time.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Principal
15  sandy-2021492    2 months ago

There is a possum playing dead in my shrubs, but my front steps are covered in ice, so I'm afraid to walk down them and get close enough for a pic.  The dog sure is having fun playing guard dog, though.

 
 
 
Ender
PhD Principal
15.1  Ender  replied to  sandy-2021492 @15    2 months ago

I can see it now, fall down the stairs, shovel or whatever weapon goes flying and hits ya in the head, the the possum jumps up and bites ya on the leg.

Good times, good times...

Then again, maybe it is frozen.

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
15.1.1  author  Dig  replied to  Ender @15.1    2 months ago
Then again, maybe it is frozen.

I was wondering about that. Their heart rate is supposed to slow way down, which can't be good when it's below freezing.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Principal
15.1.2  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ender @15.1    2 months ago

I didn't take a weapon with me.  I'm not afraid of them, so long as they're a few feet away, and I didn't plan to get any closer.  But I did have visions of falling down the concrete steps and cracking my skull while my son was in his bedroom, oblivious to my plight.

The possum is gone, so it must not have been frozen.

 
 
 
Dig
Senior Guide
15.2  author  Dig  replied to  sandy-2021492 @15    2 months ago

Hehe. Zombie critters.

I haven't seen one since posting this. They've vanished.

 
 
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