There’s nothing unusual about that. We see dead opossums and raccoons lying on our highways every day.
What made this particular photo unusual was that one of our highway department workers had been painting the white line down the middle of the road and, rather than moving the dead opossum from the road, he simply painted the white line right over the animal and continued on his way. He was just doing his job as his job description called for.
The caption on the widely circulated photograph read, “Not my job!”
The Virginia Opossum is one of the most frequently observed of all our native animals and it is also listed by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission as being one of our game animals with a hunting season imposed on the taking of this animal.
That being said there must be someone out there who actually hunts for the opossum in North Carolina.
For the record the 2011-12 hunting and trapping season for the opossum in our state begins on Oct. 18 and ends on Feb. 28, 2012. There is no possum hunting season allowed in the bear sanctuary in Haywood County and there is no daily or possession limit on our N.C. opossum. Trappers so frequently take possums incidental to their other trapping activities and really find little use for the animals. If there should be a slight demand for the pelts (skins) of a possum is minimal ($2 max) and as far as I can determine there is no demand for the meat of the possum in our immediate area. I’m told by some of the Old Timers in our state that during the Great Depression there was a demand for possum meat and people were darned glad to get it.
Susan J. Sharp from Hamlet, North Carolina offered an interesting recipe for “Mammy’s Old Timey Possum” to the cookbook that the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association published in 1992. It states that one possum should be cut into serving-sized pieces, combined with water, salt, all purpose flour, black pepper, paprika, and vegetable oil. The possum should be cooked in the lightly salted water until tender. Removed from the broth, reserving broth and draining the cooked possum pieces. Dredge the pieces in flour seasoned with pepper and paprika, Fry the pieces in hot oil then skim the grease from the broth and use the liquid to make gravy.
This one possum should serve two to three people and should be served with gravy and baked sweet potatoes.
I’ve eaten opossum that was cooked in a method that was similar to the one listed above and it really wasn’t that bad.
The wild game dinners that spring up across the state after the hunting seasons are over will sometime have at least one dish of possum and sweet potatoes on the menu.
According to Wikiped-ia, “The Virginia Oposs-um was once widely hunted and consumed in the United States where available. In “Dominica and Trinidad the Common Opossum or manicou is popular and can only be hunted during certain times of the year owing to over-hunting. The meat is traditionally prepared by smoking, then stewing. It is light and fine-grained, but the musk glands must be removed as part of preparation. The meat can be used in place of rabbit and chicken in recipes. Historically, hunters in the Caribbean would place a barrel with fresh or rotten fruit to attract opossums that would feed on the fruit or insects.
“In Mexico, opossums are known as “tlacuache” or “tlaquatzin”. Their tails are eaten as a folk remedy to improve fertility.
“Opossum oil (possum grease) is high in essential fatty acids and has been used as a chest rub and a carrier for arthritis remedies given as topical salves.”
The Virginia opossum is the only member of the marsupial family of animals that is found in America and it’s been hanging around here for millions of years in a virtually unchanged form.
According to the National Opossum Society (N.O.S.) (www. opossum.org) the Virginia opossum is a very interesting animal.
“It goes on a honeymoon, and 13 days later gives birth to seven or eight young, which will attach themselves to the mother’s teats which are located in the pouch of the mother’s abdomen. They then live there until they’re several months old and able to forage (under mom’s tutelage) on their own.
“It lived during the age of dinosaurs: fossil remains have been found from 70 million years ago. It can eat almost anything and loves to eat insects (beetles, cockroaches, and so forth). It eats snails and slugs. It catches and eats roof rats and also eats cat food, dog food and people food. It has “thumbs” on its hind feet and is very quiet, although it can make some sounds.”
The opossum isn’t exactly a dumb animal. Learning and discrimination tests rank it above dogs, and more on the level of pigs in terms of native intelligence.
The N.O.S. also says “Females have litters up to twice a year (the father always skips town!). Babies, typically five to eight in a litter are ready to leave mommy’s pouch and walk around out on their own by four months of age. That’s when they are seven to nine inches (nose to rump) and weigh about 10 to 16 ounces.
“But ‘possum life is rough! Only a few survive to become adults. The few that make it are eager to have their own love affairs and repeat Nature’s cycle.
“If a lot of opossums are killed by predators (they have a lot of predators- man is one of the biggest) there is more food for those that remain. Then these little furries will reproduce more successfully until they get back to their optimum number; or others will move in to fill the void (or niche) their absence creates. They can be replaced by opossums from outside the area, by rats, skunks cats, crows, raccoons, coyotes, etc.
“Admittedly, opossums do carry fleas (as do all wild and some domestic animals). And the opossum may bite you if you are foolhardy enough to grab one; after all, they are wild animals. They help to maintain a clean and healthy environment. They eat all types of insects, including cockroaches, crickets, beetles, etcetera. They catch and eat rats, roof rats, mice, and they consume dead animals of all types (carrion). They like over-ripe fruit, berries and grapes. And they think snails and slugs are a delicacy! Nature’s little Sanitation Engin-eers!
“Typically they go about their quiet task late at night, and you usually won’t know they were around...unless your dog (being territorial) starts barking, or you happen to take a midnight stroll when one is munching insects or snails in your yard. If by chance you happen across a possum just watch an enjoy one of Nature’s beneficial wildlife species.
“If one has chosen your garage, attic, or other structure, as its temporary quarters, you may not want it there! There are relatively simple and non-lethal means to get them to leave for more suitable spots in your area.
“In the meantime, and before you have a visitor to those structures, pick up pet food at night, keep lids on garbage cans, and close potential entrance points. You can still enjoy opossums as they wander through your yard, eliminating its various pests as they go through their nightly excursions.”
Just remember that if times really get tough and you’re awfully hungry that the opossum is good to eat and nutritious to boot.
The animal will probably be around on this earth long after mankind has disappeared.