The Science of Sustainability

Producer's Notes for Cool Critters: Opossums

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"Opossums are marsupials, just like kangaroos."I think opossums get a bum rap. People think just because they look kind of funny, walk kind of funny, have beady eyes and sharp teeth, and can emit the most foul-smelling scent you've ever had the misfortune of coming across, that they are kind of "icky."

But they are just trying to make a living like everybody else. They need those teeth to crush bone – which means that they are good for clearing out those unwanted rodents in your neighborhood. (No, they are not rodents themselves; opossums are marsupials… that’s right, just like kangaroos!). Their eyes… well, they just look that way and they're not particularly useful, however these critters have an excellent sense of smell and hearing to make up for it. As for that smell that they emit, they only do that when they're fighting for their lives. Believe me, if you could spew a foul stench when some unsavory character is harassing you, you'd do it! And let me take this moment to clear up a very common misconception: no, opossums cannot hang by their tails, though they can use them to balance themselves and gather bedding materials for their nests.

The truth is, if you ever get the chance to know one like we did, you'll see they are really sweet creatures. Most of the times that they find themselves in direct conflict with humans, it’s the human's fault. Their habitats are shrinking due to our development plans, which forces them to live closer and closer to us. If you leave your pet food outside… well, who doesn't take a free snack when it's offered up? And the poor creatures only live for two to four years, so please folks, give the opossums a break!


Watch the Cool Critters: Opossums television story online.


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Category: Biology, Environment

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Joan Johnson

About the Author ()

Joan Johnson is an TV Associate Producer for QUEST. Joan got her start making science television back in 1998 when she joined the team at Sea Studios in Monterey, working as a researcher and production coordinator on National Geographic Television projects for 4 years. Following that she pursued a career in features and network television down in Los Angeles, working on seven full length feature films, three television shows and several pilots. Joan graduated in 1993 from U.C. Santa Cruz with honors in Biology, and spent several years working as a marine biologist, naturalist and SCUBA guide. Originally from San Francisco, Joan is thrilled to be home and working on QUEST, fulfilling a long-term goal of combining her interests in science and entertainment.