Kid’s Corner

The Backyard Creeper

By Christy Lowman

Burke County

This month I thought we would discuss a creature that creeps in your backyard at night that most people despise, hate, and think is totally gross. They do not like this animal solely based on their looks. Maybe I’m weird but I have always thought they were fascinating and cute especially when they’re babies. Hopefully after I tell you some facts about this animal you will look past their looks and like them as well!

This animal is one of the best animals to have in your backyard regardless of how they look. They protect you by eating around 5,000 deer ticks each season! Deer ticks are harmful to people because they can carry Lyme disease that can make us very sick and can lead to death if untreated! This animal has beady eyes, 50 sharp teeth, and white grayish fur. Have you guessed what this despised but helpful animal is?

The opossum! The only marsupial that lives in North America. Do you know what a marsupial is? Marsupials are animals that raise their young in a pouch, like a kangaroo. Opossum babies are also called joeys just like baby kangaroos. Opossum babies, when born are the size of a honeybee. They live in their mother’s pouch for 2-3 months. After this, they will roam around in their den but when they go out they will catch a ride on their mother’s back for another 1-2 months.

Opossums don’t only eat ticks, they eat venomous snakes that linger in your yard, and rodents. They clean up spilled bird seed from your bird feeders, eat over ripe fruit from your fruit trees, berries, vegetables, snails, and even carrion. Carrion is dead animals and roadkill. Can you see how opossums are an important clean-up animal that visits our backyard and roads?

The adult opossum grows up to 12 lbs., about the size of a house cat. They are one of the shortest-lived mammals for their size. Two to four years is their normal lifespan. Predators unfortunately include people and cars, dogs, cats, owls, and larger wildlife. Thankfully God gave the opossums an involuntary mechanism that is triggered when the opossums feel stressed or threatened. They can not trigger this mechanism on their own, and do not know when it will happen. This reaction is what we call “playing possum”. Have you ever been accused of playing possum? During this state, the opossum quits moving, falls to the ground, their eyes are left open, unblinking, and their tongue hangs out of their mouth. When this happens, the opossum secretes a terrible, stinky substance for their behind. By doing this, their predators think they have died and will decide to look for dinner elsewhere. This passed out state can last from 1 min. up to 6 hrs.

Opossums have very bad eyesight and hearing, but have an incredible sense of smell and memory.  Their pupils dilate very large at night to help them see better in the dark. Scientists have discovered that opossums remember where they found a tasty meal better than rats, cats, dogs, and pigs.  They also remember the smell of poisonous substances up to a year after eating them.

Another reason opossums should be welcomed in your yard is they normally do not catch rabies. Their body temperature is too low for the virus to grow in their bodies. They are also immune to all poisonous snakes in their native habitat except for the coral snake. Scientists are trying to develop antivenom drugs from the opossum to heal people when they get bit from these poisonous snakes.

It is not true that opossums hang from trees while they sleep. However, their tail is like an extra arm to them. When opossums are young they can hang from tree branches with their tail for a short time. They can climb trees with their sharp claws, graspable tails, and gripping thumbs on their hind feet.

Ultimately, this misunderstood animal that God made is more than likely not going to attack your pets, or carry rabies. They will however keep your yard tidy by getting rid of dead animals, discarded birdseed, dangerous snakes, rodents and ticks.

Have you ever seen a person, maybe at school or church, that is a little different? Maybe the other kids think this person is ugly, gross, dumb, or just plain weird. Maybe they are misunderstood like the opossum. This kid might like things that you find unusual. Maybe he or she likes to draw, or listen to opera. Maybe they sit by themselves and have no one to talk to.  Perhaps you are uncomfortable around this person or don’t know what to say, so you avoid them. Ask God to help you with this and He will. If you see someone that is being left out for being different go up and be their friend and pray for them. That is what Jesus did when He walked on earth. He treated everyone the same, even the despised, hated people, the ones that had diseases and were ugly. He showed them love and compassion and died on the cross for them just like He did you and me.

God made this person just like He made you. Not everyone is popular, or beautiful in our eyes, but everyone is loved and beautiful in God’s eyes. He made each one of us different. This world would be boring if we looked the same, acted the same, liked the same things. Ultimately God made each of us unique and gave each of us a different job to do. Treat everyone like you would want to be treated.

Dear Lord, please give us the compassion and desire to reach out and love everyone that you have given the gift of life. We are all equal in your eyes. You made each and every one of us unique and have tasked us with a certain job to do. It doesn’t matter if we are not as handsome or cool as other people. We are still loved and valuable just like the opossum. I pray that others around us will see your love through us. Help us be an example of your unfailing love. In Jesus’ precious name, AMEN.

“You will never look in the eyes of someone God does not love.” Anonymous

John 15:12NIV “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

Bibliography

 

http://mentalfloss.com/article/544902/facts-about-opossums

http://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/opossum_facts/44/

https://www.opossum.org/facts.htm

https://www.farmersalmanac.com/opossum-facts-27732