The Possum

or maybe

The Opossum

Pittsburgh 2016

This is Jean-Clawed.  He lives with me.

This is what Jean-Clawed is looking at.

This…  thing…  is on my back porch.  It is an opossum.  He does not live with me.  Clearly, you can see that, just by looking at Jean-Clawed’s face.

What we have here is the two extremes.  When he’s not on high alert, when his suspicions rest, Jean-Clawed is the most adorable, gentlest critters ever to exist.  He is of surpassing cute-itude

An opossum, in any state of mind whatever, is at the other end of the spectrum, if you ask me, one of the most hideous critters to burden the earth.  Double oh my!

So what’s the deal with these uglies?  And exactly what animal was it on my back porch?  Was it a possum or was it an opossum?

Most of the answer to this question comes from the Opossum Society of the United States.  Really.

The opossum is a marsupial, the only one in North America.  Being a marsupial means that, opposite of bicyclists, you have a front pocket.

They are kind of like ugly gardeners, eating snails and slugs, spiders, worms, cockroaches, rats, mice and snakes and the occasional chicken.  They will raid garbage cans and dumpsters.  In a pinch, they’ll dine on grass, nuts and fruit.  The OSUS calls them, “Nature’s Little Sanitation Engineer.”  Pretty catchy, eh?

But concerning our most pressing issue — was that a possum or an opossum that had Jean-Clawed fascinated — there is considerable confusing information out there.  Some sources say these are the same animal, some say they are different beasts and we-who-name-them are just lazy.  Here’s the best I found…

opossum  (Didelphidae)

.  North American marsupial

.  white face

.  grayish-white body

.  black ears and feet

.  coarse fur

.  sharp teeth

.  bare, rat-like tail

possum  (Phalangeridae)

.  Australian marsupial

.  four primary color variations: silver-gray, brown, black, gold

.  larger ears

.  fur is softer and more bushy

.  bushy tail covered in fur

So let it be settled.

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