When Opossums Play Dead They REALLY Play Dead!

by Nikki on July 9, 2011

Today, my beloved “attack” dogs, Tasha and Cooper (the German Shepherd and the, well, Cooper) were scurrying back and forth doing their high-pitched “danger, human, danger!” bark beneath the tarp covering the wood pile in our backyard. At first, we thought Cooper was stuck under there, because we didn’t hear Tasha, and Cooper isn’t the brightest bulb in the box sometimes, so it was feasible. I lifted the tarp to let him out, only to discover both dogs with their noses pressed against the wood, pacing back and forth. I tried to get them to back off, scared that it was a snake that would suddenly smell human blood and slither through to swallow me whole. Yes, I fear this possibility even with simple garter snakes, those things freak me out. Then I thought “what if it’s a kittem?” because we have a lot of those around here. The dogs would not back off though, and I started to hear a low growl, and suddenly something furry dashed out from under the wood pile.

Now, I would have assumed this to be the opossum’s fatal mistake. It left a spot where it couldn’t be reached and ran straight into the face of danger- Tasha’s face to be precise. Before I could finish scream “leave it be!” Tasha dove in for the kill. She’s fast. I’ve seen her take out renegade chipmunks before they could even blink. I thought for sure the poor little guy was done for. Of course, Tasha was just doing her duty and protecting me from a potentially deadly foe, but it was still disturbing to see this huge dead rat-like animal up close.

My mom came over to see what was going on, and I asked her if perhaps it was just playing dead. So she did what any civilized person would do- she poked it with a long stick. Nothing. She even stuck the stick in its mouth. Still nothing. Tasha and Cooper were staring at it, but even they thought their job was over. Not sure what else to do, my mom used a garbage bag to pick it up and put it in a bigger garbage bag. It still didn’t move. She threw the bag over the fence and onto the paved driveway. Nothing. The sucker was dead!

Fast forward three hours later, when my mom comes in the house to tell me that she was going to move the bag down the hill, but it was empty. Empty! Where the heck did the damn thing go? Seriously, when Opossums play dead, they really pull out all the stops. They’ve got to be the best actors in the animal kingdom. Of course, I googled it when I came in, and read that they actually go comatose, so I guess that explains everything. But still, he has to be one very concussed little guy right about now. I hope he found a better place to sleep than the wood pile, I’m not so sure Tasha would get it wrong the next time. She looked slightly livid that the bag was empty.

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{ 1 comment }

Grumpy Grateful Mom July 9, 2011 at 6:40 pm

That’s crazy! He may be sore, but now he’s got an exciting story to tell the other opossums. 😉

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