The opossums are the American representatives of the ancient order of Marsupials – a wonderfully varied group of mammals now limited to America and Australasia. Throughout the order the young are born in an embryonic condition and are transferred to teats located in an external pocket or pouch in the skin of the abdomen, where they complete their development. The kangaroos are among the most striking members of this group.
Numerous species of opossums are known, all peculiar to America and distributed from the eastern United States to Patagonia. The Virginia opossum, the largest of all the species, is characterized by its coarse hair, piglike snout, naked ears, and long, hairless, prehensile tail. Its toes are long, slender, and so widely spread that its footprints on the muddy border of a stream or in a dusty trail show every toe distinctly, as in a bird track, and are unmistakably different from those of any other mammal.
This is the only species of opossum occurring in the United States, where it occupies all the wooded eastern parts from eastern New York, southern Wisconsin, and eastern Nebraska south to the Gulf coast and into the tropics. It has recently been introduced in central California. Although scarce ill the northern parts of its range, it is abundant and well known in the warmer Southern States. These animals love the vicinity of water, and are most numerous in and about swamps or other wet lowlands and along bottomlands bordering streams. They have their dens in hollow trees, in holes under the roots of trees, or ill similar openings where they may hide away by day. Their food consists of almost everything, animal or vegetable, that is edible, including chickens, which they capture in nocturnal raids.
The Virginia opossums have from 5 to 14 young, which at first are formless, naked little objects, so firmly attached to the teats in the mother’s pouch that they can not be shaken loose. Later, when they attain a coating of hair, they are miniature replicas of the adults, but continue to occupy the pouch until the swarming family becomes too large for it. The free toes of opossums are used like hands for grasping, and the young cling firmly to the fur of their mother while being carried about in her wanderings. They are rather slow-moving, stupid animals, which seek safety by their retiring nocturnal habits and by non-resistance when overtaken by an enemy. This last trait gave origin to the familiar term “playing possum,” and is illustrated by their habit of dropping limp and apparently lifeless when attacked. Despite this apparent lack of stamina, their vitality is extraordinary, rendering them difficult to kill.
While hunting at daybreak, I once encountered an unusually large old male opossum on his wav home from a night in the forest. When we met, he immediately stopped and stood with hanging head and tail and halfclosed eyes. I walked up and, after watching him for several minutes without seeing the slightest movement, put my foot against his side and gave a slight push. He promptly fell flat and lay limp and apparently dead. I then raised him and tried to put him on his feet again, but his legs would no longer support him, and I failed in other tests to obtain the slightest sign of life.
The opossum has always been a favorite game animal in the Southern States, and figures largely in the songs and folk-lore of the southern negroes. In addition, its remarkable peculiarities have excited so much popular interest that it has become one of the most widely known of American animals.
Where shall I hang my Bird Cage – sergeant’s pet care products
“Where shall I hang my bird cage?” is a question we frequently hear, and our answer is, place the bird if possible just a trifle higher than your head, so that he will not be disturbed by your frequent moving around the room. Put him where he will have plenty of fresh air without being in a draft. It does not hurt a bird to be in the open air any day of the spring, summer or fall when it is not really chilly, but it is decidedly harmful to place it before an open window unless the day is particularly warm and but little air stirring.
There is about as much injury caused to birds from hanging them in such a location as from any other cause. Singing birds are as susceptible to a “sore throat” or cold as the ordinary concert singer or prima donna, and it is frequently more trouble to cure them. Prevention is always easier than cure.
Birds enjoy an occasional sun bath and like to plume their feathers when the sun is shining on them, but this must not be taken as any reason to hang a bird which has been accustomed to indoor life out where it has no shelter from the full rays of the midsummer sun. This we consider a very cruel practice, but still it is done thoughtlessly by many bird owners.
Fresh, pure water should be plentifully supplied to the bird in some dish or receptacle which can be kept clean. This water vessel should be washed daily. The bath dish should not be neglected. No one who is acquainted with the luxury of a swim will deny a bath to his feathered pet, and almost all birds enjoy it. Of course this is always accompanied by a little splashing, and it is well to remove the bottom of the cage and put the upper portion containing the bird over the bath dish, which may be placed on the table covered with a towel.
During the hottest part of the year let him have his bath every day. In the winter your bird will not require a bath so often, but when you consider that the temperature in most of our houses is kept at almost a summer heat during the winter, you will find your bird enjoys his bath at that time almost as well. Be careful to have the cage dry and comfortable after the bird has bathed.
The worst objection to the bath is caused by people who allow the bottom of the cage and the perches to become wet and this proves injurious to the bird. We want to give one caution here, however, and that is never let your female birds have water to bathe or dabble in while they are setting.
One of our friends in Kansas writes us that she has one canary which will not bathe unless the cage is set on the table, and another will only bathe when placed on the floor. It all depends on the way the bird has been treated in its younger days. When they get into certain habits they dislike to change from them. Some will not use the bath dish when it is more than half full of water, and much prefer warm water to cold.