Page 3 - Kind News Teacher Guide, Nov/Dec 2022
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         Critter Clues FROM PAGE 7
         Our mystery critter is the opossum. These nocturnal marsupials have been
         around since the time of the dinosaur. Often described as dirty, smelly, and
         disease-ridden, opossums are very misunderstood.
           Opossums are scavengers. Adaptable and intelligent, they are actually a
         benefit to most areas they live in. They may eat thousands of ticks a season
         (helping to slow the spread of Lyme disease, carried by ticks), and they also
        eat snails, rats, mice, cockroaches, and beetles, some of which carry diseases and
        eat our gardens. Opossums are very clean animals — they have very few sweat
        glands — and much like cats, are often cleaning themselves with their tongue and paws.
        Since opossums drool and hiss in self-defense, a common misconception is that they are
        mean or even that they carry rabies. In fact, it is rare for opossums to contract rabies due
        to their low body temperature.
           Opossums have no shortage of cool tricks up their sleeves. They make great use of their tails — for
        climbing, balancing, and carrying material for their nests. The term “playing possum” comes from their ability
        to lie completely still for hours on end when threatened, a completely involuntary behavior caused by stress.
        When doing this, they also emit a terrible odor, increasing their chances of deterring potential predators.
           Opossums struggle in the winter months. They can’t hibernate and must look for food every few days.
        Their ears and tails are hairless, which makes opossums more likely to get frostbite.
           Some urban communities may have a high population of opossums, leading to conflicts with pets or
        other wildlife. What can you do to limit conflict with opossums? If you do not want them visiting your
        backyard or denning under your porch, fill up any holes and remove any fallen fruit from trees, as well as
        pet or bird food from your backyard. If they do take up residence under your house or porch, there are
        ways to get them out without harming them.

        For more information, visit

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