The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group. It is a place where we share our observations about the natural world. Whether we note the spring migrating birds or the first buds on your trees, we are building a resource to learn more about the patterns of nature and how they may be changing. Everyone is welcome to contribute! Just tell us what you are seeing in your backyard or wherever you are roaming and approximately where your observations come from.Gooseville, WI
First time we met in daylight last week, he fainted. As I walked around the corner of the deck to feed my birds we surprised each other and he collapsed into a pile of silky grey possum fur, splayed out on his side in the scattered shells and husks of sunflower seed he'd been munching.
He lay stiff with his mouth gaping open and tongue hanging out with bubbled saliva thick on his lips. His half-closed, unblinking eyes stared blankly ahead looking quite dead and he had pooed himself with something nasty, green and slimy. His state of catatonia was not appealing.
(with an embarrassment of sunflower seeds stuck to his nose)
Last time we met, he boldly stood his ground, awake. Soundlessly, he hung without a hiss, frozen and unblinking. Open mouthed and drooling, this frightened little marsupial sports a set of 50 teeth, that's more teeth than any other North American mammal.
They only live about two years and don't hibernate in winter, yet they're expanding their range northward toward Canada. In the biting cold of winter it's tough to think of exposed naked toes, tail and ears as being comfortable and without frostbite.
It's interesting to note that possums rarely spread disease to humans and are very resistant to rabies. That's because they have a lower body temperature than most other placental mammals. They're mostly immune to snake venom, too. In addition, most ticks that carry Lyme and other diseases, that try to feed on opossums, fail and die without spreading the disease.
Possums are among the oldest, most primitive mammals of the New World. These old fossils have survived relatively unchanged for 50-70 million years. This little possum has clawless opposable thumbs on his hind feet and a prehensile, grasping tail.
Imagine what your cat could do with appendages like that with access to a can opener or your car keys.
What's happening in your neighborhood? Got possums? Butterflies or blooms? All are welcome here.