Undead Possum

I was walking around the grounds of my apartment complex today (yes, it has real estate holdings sufficient, I think, to be referred to as “grounds”…not maybe in the pastoral landed class sense, but substantial, with lawns and communal gardens and all) when I came across a possum. An o-possum. Like a big gray rat with a white face and pink lips. I believe they are marsupials, and I am pretty sure they’re supposed to be nocturnal. This one was out in the middle of the day in plain sight on the lawn. Even weirder, it wasn’t doing anything—just standing there, all four paws on the ground, staring at, well, nothing.

I stopped and watched it for awhile, trying to figure out what its deal was. Had my camera with me, and I thought about taking a picture—but in the end, possums just aren’t very photogenic. Especially this one.

I wasn’t any more than ten feet away from it, and it didn’t even acknowledge me. I had a stick with me, as I usually do, and I banged it against a tree to make some noise. I shouted at it. No reaction from the possum. It just stood there, staring at whatever it was staring at it. And twitching. And there were flies. A whole bunch of flies.

It was at this point that I started to get the sick feeling I had experienced this moment before: in zombie films, where the soon-to-be-dead idiot approaches his girlfriend who has been hunched over in front of the sink since he got home, puts a hand on her shoulder asking what’s wrong, turns her around, and….


I left the undead possum to go about its business of communing with the ancestor god or the hive mind or whatever, and went to report the incident to the ladies at the leasing office.

I think they called animal control. I haven’t heard anything since. I did see some people standing around outside waiting for the bus. They didn’t look like zombies. I dunno. The wife isn’t home yet.


  1. I know I’m in the minority but I find possums cute. They are the only marsupial in North America which I find kind of neat and strange. There’s a lot of possum rehabilitation places I’ve noticed online. Possums tend to get killed by cars and the babies often survive. They ‘play possum’ like you found, pretending to be dead when scared. From what I’ve read, they are not often carries of rabies. And their appearance doesn’t indicate a problem with garbage. I say this because I have a possum that occasionally comes to eat food I leave out for stray cats. They are noctural, so your daylight sighting could indicate that one had a disease or was just very hungry. Glad you didn’t get hurt.

    1. I think they can be cute—rats can be cute too—it’s just a matter of habit and surroundings.

      I don’t think the one I saw was playing possum, though it’s possible. Heh. Pun not intended. I think they lie down and curl into a ball to play possum. And while the wikipedia entry teaches me a number of things I didn’t know, including that when they play dead, possums secrete some kind of faux-death perfume (which could conceivably have attracted the flies), it doesn’t convince me that’s what I saw. This one was standing straight up, eyes open, and like I said, twitching. I think it was sick. Though research does seem to suggest they aren’t particularly susceptible to rabies…so who knows. But who plays dead standing up?

  2. Thanks for the reply. It is a strange creature, I enjoyed reading about them when I started to get visits by one. Here’s a site I found interesting in addition to the Wikipedia article:
    http://www.opossumsocietyus.org/opossum_defense_mechanisms.htm It describes the faux death, which from the picture seems to be a flop over vs. a curl up. But maybe it varies based on how they were found. Nothing mentiones twitching … so that does sound like a possible illness. I missed the part about him standing up in your entry, poor reading comprehension on my part. Hope you have a nice rest of the week, free of undead animals vegetables and minerals.

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