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Possums Have Their Fans, Too

June 02, 1996

John Morell's interesting article on opossums ("Softies Behind the Teeth," May 12) should reassure homeowners who might have been frightened by these harmless waddlers. The excellent photos by Jill Connally, however, made me wonder how anyone could look at those sweet faces and see only a "homely white snout." Granted, the tail is hardly a thing of beauty, but the well-cared-for animals pictured are appealing indeed.

The opossum is the only marsupial in North America. Its earliest ancestors hid from Tyrannosaurus rex about 70 million years ago, and its adaptability has made it a champion survivor. This little nomad has earned the right to be left alone to rid our gardens of snails, insects and other pests. Welcome him; it can't hurt.


Long Beach

A few specifics in the diet of the opossum should be mentioned: snails, slugs, tomato worms, cut worms, shrews, moles, etc. Remember that the opossum is an animal with hands, not paws, that can adroitly pluck off its prey.

No need to concern yourself with removing the opossums from your yard, when your snails or scavenger's tidbits ore gone, it leaves, walking up to five miles a night in search of food.

You mention the business of "playing possum." This is not a voluntary action as you describe but a coma caused by intense fear that the animals lapse into, sometimes "'waking up" long after the danger has passed, as long as the danger didn't happen to be a semi.

In mentioning their brain size, you neglect to mention that they once munched on dinosaur remains.


El Segundo

The article on possums reminded me of a Close Encounter of the Possum Kind I experienced about a year ago:

I am a writer, and I spend a large portion of my day planning what I am going to write next, which is a nice way of saying "staring out the window." Anyway, one afternoon I noticed an intruder in our swimming pool. Upon further investigation, I confirmed that it was indeed a California Possumus Chlorinicus.

Following in a long family tradition of cowardice when it comes to wild animals (that is, any animal that is not cooked or in a cage), I immediately ran inside and dialed the number listed for "Animal Control" in the phone book.

"Possum in the pool! Possum in the pool!" I shrieked hysterically when the woman answered the phone. She seemed taken aback, not knowing if she had a real "PPP" (Pool Possum Problem) on her hands or just a "CCC" ('California Creature Coward'), so she asked me some questions to get more information. "What's he doing in your pool?" she asked, and I, being the inveterate wisecracker that I am, responded, "I believe the backstroke, but I'll check if you want."

She said I had dialed the Police Department and that I had committed a "917" (making stupid jokes to a police officer) but that she would contact animal control and have someone sent out anyway.

Relieved, I went back outside to check on the condition of the little Janet Evans impersonator, but she had disappeared. Wet possum prints led away from the pool.

Trying to hide my embarrassment, I called back and explained to the police person that, for the first time in generations, a Showstack had actually scared a wild animal away.

The next day I went to the hardware store and looked in vain for a sign that said: "Possums Not Allowed in Pool When Lifeguard Not on Duty." However, I read in your article that possums are not very smart, so I doubt that they could have read such a sign anyway.


Newport Beach

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