The opossum, tlacuache or “zorro” as it is known in the Yucatan Peninsula, lives in almost all of the Americas, often underestimated, it is one of the most representative species of the region, and provides a great service to the local ecosystem, as they contribute to a healthy environment eradicating ticks, catching and eating cockroaches, rats and mice – in addition to consuming dead animals of all types (also known as carrion).
It is one of the mammals that most aversion usually cause because of their appearance. Ignorant people fear and kill them. It is commonly associated with rats and is seen as a carrier of diseases such as rabies, perception which is totally wrong. Possums are completely harmless, they stand out for their ability to climb trees to feed themselves and “play dead”.
Eduardo Córdoba, graduated from program in Ecology of El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (EcoSur), who has conducted studies on this marsupial mammal scientifically known as Didelphis virginiana.
“Zorrito, as it is known colloquially, inhabits the entire Yucatan Peninsula, both in the jungles and the rural and urban housing areas, as long as there is a patio with fruit trees, poultry or an albarrada (rock wall), this species will manage to find food and shelter there, ” the expert said.
Its coat has a grayish white color, or sometimes brown or reddish, it has a prehensile tail, longer than its body, which allows it to hold, manipulate or hang upside down from trees. It has a long and pointed snout, and a hairless nose with long whiskers.
“The tail, and the nose are hairless, the tail is bald and scaly, it measures between 45 and 60 cm, it has a complete set of sharp teeth and fangs, it has five fingers on each paw, and it can weigh up to seven kilograms. They are considered living fossils since their appearance have changed very little throughout thousands of years, ” Cordoba added.
Possums are omnivorous and their strong teeth allow it to eat almost everything. They consume fruits, worms, lizards, mollusks, birds, small mammals, insects, corn, birds, amphibians, roots, rodents, rabbits, fruits and carrion.
“It is a nocturnal animal, that usually rests during the day and goes out to look for its food when it gets dark. Although possums eats practically everything, their favorite food is blood. They slaughter chickens and suck their blood, in general, they do not even eat the meat, ” explained the expert.
Possums are very clever animals, when he find themselves in danger they “play dead” and with this attitude they deceive predators. Because of his cunning and because he knows how to steal barnyard fowl, he is known in Yucatán as “zorro” (fox).
According to the portal tumamifero.com, possums show early maturation, and males compete for females at reproductive ages. Even though these animals are almost completely solitary, they come together when they have young, to provide their offspring with care and food.
The gestation period of the females lasts between 25 to 32 days. The possum is a marsupial mammal, according to Dr. Hugo Ruiz, the offspring in embryonic state are born about the size of a bean. When born in a state of late gestation, they are incubated, usually in the ventral pouch (marsupium) of the female.
It is extremely important to generate awareness of the importance of these animals to the ecosystem, and avoid the killings of the species, since they are totally harmless, having nocturnal habits, usually feed between 11 PM and 2 AM.
Possums are emblematic in the Yucatan Peninsula, and they can be seen in urban areas, mostly due to the devastation of their habitats, and because of their extraordinary ability to adapt to any environment, that is why they are known as “Masters of Survival”.
TYT Newsroom with information from meganews.mx