Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winter Opossum

When temperatures dip well below freezing, nocturnal animals that are susceptible to the cold will often venture out in search of food during the slightly warmer daytimes hours.  Opossums are common foragers around the bird feeding area, but are rarely seen during the day.

When I saw this guy making his way through the field beside the house, I knew where he was headed.  I hurried around and met him as he arrived at the feeder.

Opossums normally don’t react to my presence if I move slowly and don’t crowd.  They act as though I’m just another animal taking advantage of the food supply.  The ears and tails are susceptible to frostbite during cold weather and always look a bit ragged on the older specimens.

If I do get too close to the Opossum and it decides to leave, it will begin its escape with an exaggerated slow motion walk.  I guess I’m not supposed to notice that it is moving.

It’s unusual to find an adult Opossum that looks sleek and clean.  This one has notches in its ears, a ripped place on its side and a scabby, mangled tail.  It may be different in the southern portion of their range, but I don’t think our cold winters do them much favor.

Once they feel they’ve gotten away from me, they move on with more haste.  I doubt that they are capable of outrunning any legitimate predator.  It’s fortunate that they have excellent reproductive success and introduce many new Opossums into the population each year.

A Camera Critters submission.


  1. I've never seen one with a winter coat before, I thought they were hibernators, very interesting. It's so ugly that it's actually kinda cute :)

  2. Hi Steve...In the past 6 years or so they have been sited in Maine up as far as the central Maine area in which I am...I have seen them on occasions, but mostly dead in the road or side of!
    One lady who lives not far from me had on at her bird feeder just before daylight in the middle of winter and there are other reports of the same !
    "Verrrry interesting" Maxwell Smart would say !!
    Your poor fella looks like he has had a hard life.
    You do have alot of animal traffic don't you ; }

  3. Hi Julie. Opossums may hole up for a few days during extremely severe weather, but they are awake and using energy. Eventually they have to go in search of food. The young ones are especially cute, but they lose a lot of cuteness as they grow.

    Hi Grace. It must be tough going for Opossums in Maine. I try to maintain an animal friendly landscape around the house. Sometimes I think I'm too successful.

  4. Great photos. I rarely see them here in the daylight but they are always around my yard at night. We have one little fellow that makes a regular round of our yard including a visit to the patio for a sip of water from the cats' bowl (no food out there, just water). It has been in the high twenties at night and he is still showing up. If it gets much colder I suspect he will hide out for awhile.

  5. Hi SquirrelQueen. I saw this guy wandering through the yard again today. He scavenged some scraps of orange from our organic dumping spot at the edge of the yard, visited the bird feeder and then crawled up into a dry place inside a junk hay baler permanently parked beside the barn.