The Beautiful Ugly Opossum

The Beautiful, Ugly Opossum

Perhaps you have seen this animal prowling your neighborhood and looked at the ugly opossum with disdain. When Captain John Smith of the Jamestown Colony in Virginia first saw an opossum in 1611, he described it as a cross between a pig, a rat, and a cat. Although people often consider them unattractive, we appreciate the beautiful, ugly opossum design as they serve a unique purpose in America.

Opossums are the only marsupials in North America. Like kangaroos and other Australian marsupials, opossums birth their young shortly after conception. The newborn must find its way into the pouch, where it will nurse for up to four months before emerging.

Opossums have 50 teeth, allowing them to eat just about anything. Their omnivorous diet includes rodents, frogs, birds, eggs, insects, fruit, and grain. They will eat dead animals, including the bones, and they remove pests from our gardens. They don’t burrow, and unlike raccoons, they are not dexterous enough to get into trash bins or your house or garage by digging into a wall or roof. Although people often describe opossums as ugly, they are among our best animal friends.

Opossums are nocturnal
, so we rarely see them except when they get hit by a car. They are not aggressive, and when frightened, they often play dead. Their low body temperature of 94 degrees (F) prevents them from getting rabies and other viruses, and they are not affected by snake venom.

The beautiful, ugly opossum is part of God’s design for life on this planet. All animals serve a purpose in the natural world, but we often vilify opossums because of their appearance, not realizing the ways they benefit us.

— John N. Clayton ¬© 2024

References: Wikipedia and Saturday Evening Post for March/April 2024, page 21.