Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Opossum Post

According to Jimmy Kimmel, yesterday was Unfriend Day. How appropriate. I just unfriended someone on Facebook this weekend.

You see, I love animals, and I've always believed that if someone liked my blog enough to want to be a FB friend of Terra Toby they must love animals too. Until, that is, the Opossum Post came up in my news feed.

Photo Credit: National Geographic
Opossums love to climb trees, and are often found there. They are the only marsupial in North America.

The photo of a juvenile opossum perched on a fence, the tapeta of its eyes glowing in the flash, was irresistable. Aww, I thought, as I clicked to read more. 

What happened next can be reported in the style of Viral Nova or The MetaPicture:

"She thought it was just a cute wildlife photo. She never expected THIS! The truth will SHOCK you!"

It really did. Seems the opossum was walking along the fence and was not welcome. After several commenters offered to come over and "shoot it multiple times", the original poster said, nah, "my hubby threw it all over the yard with a shovel and I just laughed and laughed!"

Photo Credit: Ronald Wittek/Daily Mail
Though they have a long hairless tail, opossums are not rodents. Their tail is prehensile and they use it to hang from  branches.

Well. I left a comment to the effect that opossums are harmless and I was quite upset by the comments. Then I unfriended this person, a bit sick to my stomach, imagining the terror and pain the animal must have felt. I thought that was the end of it.

Since the post I had seen originated on Instagram but ended up on Facebook, the next day a separate photo and post appeared. How, I don't know, but I was glad to see it since this one included the information that the opossum survived since "neither [spouse] nor I could bring ourselves to smash it with the shovel".  It concluded with the observation that "they are vicious creatures". 

Hmmm. The opossum is walking along the back fence. Two people run out with a shovel and sharp stick. They poke it, toss it repeatedly into the air onto the ground, and finally grudgingly throw it into the front yard to escape. Well, one species was being "vicious", but I wouldn't conclude that it was the opossum.

Though they have 50 teeth, the most of any N. American mammal, they are so harmless we use them for education at the zoo. If scared they will hiss, growl, and play dead for defense. 
Why do some people think it's adorable when a Golden Retriever plays with her puppies but disgusting when a bat or opossum nurses their young? Mammals all have similar brain structures and nerves for pain and fear, the same impulses to survive, to find food, to rear their young.  Wild animals have the extra challenges of living in a hostile environment full of predators, where habitat and resources are in ever more scarce supply as we encroach on their habitat. The wonder is that opossums, raccoons, hawks, foxes, and the like manage to coexist with humans at all. 

Photo Credit: 877nocritter.com
There may be up to 20 babies in a mother opossum's pouch, but only about half of them will survive to weaning. Learn more about their life cycle here.

Tormenting an animal is wrong, whether the abuse happens to a domesticated animal or to a wild creature we find aesthetically less "cute".


  1. we agree - every little furry deserves to live - they do so much good in nature - eating bugs etc and no one ever give them credit for that

  2. That is why I hate Facebook sometimes... I just want to take a shovel to some people and throw THEM around the yard. We have possums around here every now and then and actually a few years ago they somehow made it into the house a few times lol...

  3. I would have unfriended the person too I think! That is so sad! I could never bring myself to smash ANY animal with a shovel, or hurt it in any way. I rescue mice from my dogs if they catch one in the yard. POssums are not vicious... of course they will defend themselves if you attack them, but otherwise they would either hide from people or ignore them.

  4. It's puzzling what animals people like and which they don't. Squirrels and bunnies are cute, but snakes, bats, and opossums are supposed to be tortured to death. I have spent a lot of hours defending the less cute animals.

  5. such a super cute little creature

    retro rover

  6. I agree with Ann. This is terrible!! Glad you unfriended them!

  7. Wow! This is the reason I enjoy the company of my dogs to humans. I once saw a possum with all of its little babies on her back walking across my front yard. It was so cute. ☺


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