Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
Moving from one home to another is never an easy task, especially if you’re a mother with eight growing kids to look after. That’s the Moving Day scene that unfolded when I caught a glimpse of a female opossum busily engaged in relocating her youngsters from their den in Clear Lake’s McIntosh Woods State Park to a site on the adjacent Iowa Baptist Camp grounds. I spotted the ‘possum as she made a quick dash across a broad campground lawn located near the lake shore. The family soon disappeared into the entrance of their new digs located at the base of a hollow tree.
The much maligned Virginia opossum is North America’s sole representative of the marsupial family; more closely to related to kangaroos and koalas than to the giant rodents they resemble. Like their Australian cousins, female ‘possums give birth to “premature” young which immediately crawl into their mother’s pouch where they remain hidden until developed enough to make their debut into the outside world. During midsummer, opossum youngsters learn critical survival skills while clinging to their mother’s back as she conducts nocturnal forays in search of insects, fruit, and carrion. Although the opossum is a native inhabitant of the American forest, the creature has become highly adapted to living near humans where they are attracted to garbage, bird feeders, cat food, and domestic poultry – habits which often make them equally unpopular at rural farmsteads and residential neighborhoods. Love them or hate them; there is no denying that the ‘possum makes an unusual and interesting addition to Iowa’s wildlife inventory.