site logo

The Opossum


The opossum is found more or less throughout nearly all the United

States. In size it equals a large cat, the tail being about fifteen

inches long, very flexible and covered with scales. The general

color of the fur is grayish-white, slightly tinged with yellow,

and the legs are of a brownish hue, which color also surrounds the

eyes to some extent.

The fur is comparatively soft and wooly, and thick
y sprinkled with

long hairs, white at the base and brown at the tips.

The nature and habits of the animal are very interesting. Its nest

is made in some sheltered hollow in an old fallen or live tree,

or beneath overhanging roots or rocks, and composed of moss and

dead leaves. The young are produced in several litters during the

year, and when born are transferred by the mother to a pouch situated

in the lower front portion of her body. Here they remain and are

nourished by the parent until they are five weeks old, at which

time they emerge and travel with their mother, and their little

ring tails do them good service in holding fast to their guardian.

It is an amusing sight to see a family of young 'possums thus linked

together, and so attached to each other.

The opossum is a voracious and destructive animal, prowling about

during the hours of darkness and prying into every nook and corner in

hope of finding something that may satisfy the cravings of imperious

hunger. Rats, mice, nuts, berries, birds, insects and eggs are all

devoured by this animal; and when not content with these he does

not hesitate to insinuate himself into the poultry yard, and make

a meal on the fowls and young chickens. His fondness for fruit and

Indian corn often leads him to commit great havoc among plantations

and fruit trees, and his appetite for the fruit of the persimmon tree

is proverbial. While feeding on these fruits he frequently hangs

by his tail, as seen in our illustration, gathering the persimmons

with his fore paws and eating them while thus suspended. He is a

most agile climber, and his tenacity and terminal resources in

this direction are admirably depicted in that well known Methodist

sermon, as follows: An' you may shake one foot loose, but 'tothers

thar; an' you may shake all his feet loose, but he laps his tail

around the lim' an' he clings forever.

He is an adept at feigning death, playing 'possum so skilfully

as frequently to deceive an expert.

'Possums are hunted in the Southern States much after the manner

of coons; and to the negroes a 'possum hunt signifies most unbounded


Though cunning in many ways, the opossum is singularly simple in

others. There is hardly any animal more easily captured; for it

will walk into the clumsiest of traps, and permit itself to be

ensnared by a device at which an American rat would look with utter


The dead-fall, garrote, or stout snare may all be employed, being

baited with any of the substances already described. The steel

trap 2-1/1 or 3 is most commonly used, being set in the haunts of

the animal, and slightly scented with musk.

See Fox and Beaver, for directions for skinning, stretching, etc.,