Friday, July 28, 2017

Opossums eat woodrats?

In West Virginia, while monitoring the den of a female spotted skunk with kits, Chuck Waggy observed a woodrat co-inhabiting the den.  This alone was unique, but what happened next was even more interesting.



Below is Chuck's account of the interaction:

At 0500 hrs. on June 24, a raccoon entered the skunk/woodrat den--first raccoon I had seen here.  The last pic I had of the wood rat at this den was at 23:50 hrs. on June 24.   At 00:38 hrs. on June 25 a possum (also first possum I had seen here) entered the skunk maternal /woodrat den.   It exited the den 48 seconds later chewing on something.  At first I thought it might be a spotted kit but size didn't match.  Woodrat pup or just some extraneous debris?  Those were the last pics I got of the woodrat and possum (and raccoon) but skunk brought a kit (much larger than what possum was munching on) out of that same den on June 29.

Overall, opossums are an exceedingly common yet poorly understood critter.  Relatively few studies of their biology and role in ecosystems have been conducted.  Chuck's observation suggests they could be important predators, not only to the nests of turkeys and other birds, but the dens of small mammals like the woodrats and potentially even the spotted skunk.