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Baby Opposum played dead, oops.


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8 replies to this topic

#1 of 9 ONLINE   TonyD

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Posted August 11 2008 - 02:27 PM

So my dog a pomeranian, has a bunch of toys that are small replicas of
little animals, hedgehogs, squirrels, etc.
she chews and suckles these things like she's obsessed.

Anyhow tonight i went into the yard were she was and she lead me to the middle of the yard and started barking at a spot on the ground.

no lights out there so i couldnt see anything.
The signs point to her finding something or eating something that she shouldn't so i put her back in the house and got the flashlight.

My guess is that this baby opossum was playing dead and dog decided that she would treat this small animal like she does her toys.

No more baby opossum.

couldnt see any noticeable damage but something was oozing from the mouth so i guess dog must have squished it to death.

so besides the baby being dead, Posted Image ,
yuck.
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#2 of 9 OFFLINE   BrianW

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Posted August 12 2008 - 01:16 AM

The foam oozing from the mouth is actually typical of opposums playing dead, so don't write them off just because you're convinced they're dead. It was probably just fine. We had an opposum living under our shed last year that our flat-coated retriever killed three times! So I got to study up close the techniques they use.

The interesting thing is that playing dead is not an instinct that originates in the brain. In other words, the opposum doesn't "decide" to play dead, either consciously or by instinctive choice. Instead, when it becomes scared, a gland secretes a hormone into the blood that freezes the muscles and causes it to stink of death. It's like the opposite of our adrenalin. So the opposum is scared for its life, trying to run away, and its mulscles become paralyzed against its will, leaving it otherwise fully conscious, aware that it's been left to the mercy of whatever scared it in the first place. That's gotta be a scary survival adaptation to have.
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#3 of 9 OFFLINE   drobbins

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Posted August 12 2008 - 02:38 AM

This reflex is also used by a type of miniature goat. My dad’s neighbor has some of these and it is the funniest thing so see. If you make a loud sound or some other thing to scare them, they freeze up. It can keep you entertained for hours seeing a dozen goats lock up stiff as a board and with half of them falling over. More fun than a six pack and a bug zapper.Posted Image

#4 of 9 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted August 12 2008 - 03:55 AM

Was it still in the yard this morning, Tony?

How long do these creatures 'play dead" for? As long as necessary...or, once implemented, does it take a certain amount of time to "wear off?"

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#5 of 9 OFFLINE   Joseph DeMartino

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Posted August 12 2008 - 03:56 AM

When I was a kid a 'possum fell into our pool, which we had just drained for the winter but hadn't yet covered. I thought it was dead, and was going grab a pair of gloves and jump in to remove the carcass when my dad stopped me. He went to the back of our property and found a nice sturdy tree branch and laid it in the pool at a shallow angle so that it formed a bridge from the bottom to the deck. The next morning the "dead" 'possum was gone having taken dad's escape route sometime after we left.

Regards,

Joe

#6 of 9 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted August 12 2008 - 04:10 AM

Good story, Joe.

FWIW, from Wikipedia:

Quote:
When threatened or harmed, they will "play possum", mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal. The lips are drawn back, teeth are bared, saliva foams around the mouth, and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from the anal glands. The physiological response is involuntary, rather than a conscious act. Their stiff, curled form can be prodded, turned over, and even carried away. The animal will regain consciousness after a period of minutes or hours and escape. Many injured opossums have been killed by well-meaning people who find a catatonic animal and assume the worst.

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#7 of 9 OFFLINE   drobbins

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Posted August 12 2008 - 04:14 AM

I had one in the pool that was dead. I went to pull it out by its tail and the skin pealed off Posted Image. Between that and the smell, it was all I could do to keep my lunch down.

#8 of 9 ONLINE   TonyD

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Posted August 12 2008 - 04:54 AM

was still there, dead.

the stuff in it's mouth was dirt.
probably took a bite of ground to try and hold itself from my crazy pomeranian.

Posted Image
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#9 of 9 OFFLINE   Bob McLaughlin

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Posted August 12 2008 - 04:55 AM

I knew I shouldn't have opened this thread while eating lunch, but I just couldn't resist!

That is fascinating, BrianW. I immediately thought of the military/crowd control possibilities of using such a hormone on a group of panicked people that you want to immobilize.
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