The Christmas Possum?

Cat was watching the porch with great attention when I came downstairs this morning. Is there such a thing as a Christmas Possum? Is this a good omen or bad? This is a long built-up suburban neighborhood, and this is the first neighborhood possum I've ever seen. It's raining now, but "unseasonably" warm -- right around 60F.
What is the real meaning of possum?
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The opossum is the only North American species of marsupial. "O"possum is the correct name, and distinguishes American (both North and South) possums from those native to Australia, but the "O" has been dropped in common usage. Their range is pretty much anywhere in the US and lower Canada and you will find them in cities, the suburbs and of course the countryside. They are remarkably resourcesful creatures and will adopt any type of discarded nest or den for their own, often bunking in with other creatures who apparently don't mind thier presence. They feed on fruit, berries, vegetables, garbage, cat and dog food and are excellent ratters and mousers.
They tend to be non-aggressive unless cornered but can put up a good fight with extremely sharp teeth when provoked. Recent medical research has piqued a lot of interest into possum pathology - they apparently have a remarkable self-healing capacity and recover rapidly from injuries such as broken bones. The fabled "playing dead" manuever is apparently a self-induced epileptic seizure and unfortunately these furry little creatures are the subject of medical and scientific investigations and experiments to attempt to discover how this siezure mechanism can be of benefit to humans suffering from epilepsy and other similar neurological disorders.
From my own experience, possoms tend to be not very visible urban wildlife. They are mostly nocturnal and their slow gait certainly puts them at a disadvantage in our busy world. But it is easy to see evidence of their presence - furry dead bodies by the side of the road. They are certainly well adapted to city life - where there are squirrels, there are most likely possums as well (they love used squirrel nests) and the presence of pets being fed outside, garbage, vegetable gardens, and rats provides a full spectrum of food sources. In colder areas they do hiberate - not really a true hibernation but more of a winter sleep, much the same as bears. In areas where the temperature never goes much below freezing they are active year round.
btw, I say my first neighborhood 'coon siting two nights ago and I also live in a well established, dense suburban area. These creatures walk among us.
pam - gardengal (& possum fan)
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On Wed, 24 Dec 2003 16:11:00 GMT, "Pam - gardengal"

<snipped interesting information about opposums>

"unfortunately"? Why say you? We learn from animals much that improves the human species. Is there something unfortunate about that?
John
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fight
piqued
remarkable
attempt
suffering
Well, I tend to diverge a bit from the homocentric view that animals were put on this earth for the exclusive benefit of humankind. Animal testing and experiementation is a particularly barbaric custom which is essentially nothing more than a torturous prison.
pam - gardengal
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they were there watching the dinosaurs go belly up. they are an ancient lineage. I too admire em and I do see them cause I sit out on the porch late at night in summer... and a few people are composting in their back yards. We are very urban (can reach out and touch the house next door), but we are also only 6 blocks from the lake and some protected wet lands. Ingrid

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I'm very familiar with them from living in the south for 12 years, but I'm pretty sure that they don't exist in the wild anywhere in the intermountain west. I think their range extends from the east coast to somewhere a bit west of the Mississippi, and then there's a long possum-less gap until west of the cascades. Anyway, here's an old joke from the South:
Why did the chicken cross the road?
To show the possum it could be done........

possums
mousers.
piqued
remarkable
attempt
suffering
wildlife.
likely
among
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Unfortunately they come out when it's warm, and are even slower moving than usual.....so they end up road kill. I've seen at least a dozen of them over the past two weeks dead in the road.
--
Ann, Gardening in zone 6a
Just south of Boston, MA
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While it hasn't been *terrifically* cold here, this day was warmer than most -- about 60F (and raining) at dawn. While I had no desire to keep it as a pet, I hope it went safely back to its burrow. Or whatever.
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Although seeing animals as road kill isn't pleasurable, there isn't too much concern about opossums become an endangered species. Female possums have up to three litters of young per year with an average of 8-9 offspring per litter, and thirteen young in one litter is not uncommon. The male, while searching for a mate, is the most common road kill, while females, burdened with young, are often killed by dogs when they're searching early and late for food.
John
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Opossum American Indian (Algonquin) word meaning white beast. Webster's New World Dictionary
Emilie
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It's your sign that you need to build an Ark 50 cubits wide x 50 cubits long. Give the possum and its family a room, preferably away from the badgers and bears. When it starts raining again, you'll thank me.
I'm not sure but you might want to make the Ark fire proof as well.
But take the day off and have a nice time with your family and friends first.
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