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Nature In The Natural State: Opossums

The opossum is the only marsupial, or pouched mammal, native to the United States.

The name opossum comes from the Algonquin language, and means “white animal.” In 1608, John Smith wrote in Map of Virginia that “an opassom hath an head like a Swine, and a taile like a Rat, and is of the bignes of a Cat. Under her belly she hath a bagge, wherein she lodgeth, carrieth, and sucketh her young.”

Opossums bluff by hissing, drooling, and swaying, but are “amazingly resistant” to rabies, according to the Humane Society. Playing possum—collapsing, releasing scent, and lying immobilized—is an involuntary response to threats.

Possums carry their young on their backs. They eat a wide range of different types of food, including ticks.