Possums - Florida's only marsupial - are about the size of house cats with a pouch they carry their young in. They have long skinny tails, small ears and long fur that can be gray or brown.
Females are generally smaller than the male possums but all possums are nocturnal. They live a secretive life wandering dusk till dawn. Most of their daylight hours are spent sleeping in the brush or a hollow log. They mainly eat insects, fruit and eggs. They build their nests by packing leaves into hollow tree stumps.
Possums are attracted to most types of available foods including garbage. Pet food and vegetables are also on the opossum's list of sought out foods. Secure garbage cans to keep them out otherwise you will wake up to quite a mess if they have access.
Possums have the cutest little face.
January through July is mating season for opossums with seven to nine per litter. After two months the young leave the pouch and ride the backs of their mothers. After they are weaned there is no maternal bond.
Possums are scavengers. Their role in our ecosystem is eating garbage and other foods that other animals may not eat. Predators hunting possums are coyotes, foxes, large owls, hawks as well as raccoons.
When possums are threatened or in danger they go limp and play dead - hence the phrase "playing possum." A family of possums lives on my street and I see them all on a regular basis. They sure have a cute little face. Some people even have them as pets but they do have sharp teeth and will bare them if confronted but they prefer to remain left alone and they do their best to avoid all confrontations.
Merry Beth Ryan, a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association, can be reached at www.merrybethryanphotography.com, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (941) 544-5023.
Possums are slow and usually try to escape predators by climbing the nearest tree. They are excellent climbers and spend a lot of their time aloft where they can use their tail to help with climbing as a gripping aid to be used as an extra limb.
They help out gardeners by eating snails, insects, small snakes, rats and over-ripe fruits. They can be a nuisance if they take up residence too close to your home, or when stealing garbage and pet food. This is when a possum control and removal expert will need to be called in to help.