Opossums don’t like skunks. Well, according to this.
All manner of sins have been committed in pursuit of just five minutes of fame, and a video winning a recent competition hosted by Trail Cam Pro proves this is not only true for humans, but animals too.
Of the six winners in the contest, the top slot was taken by Betsy Potter from New York for her night-time footage of a skunk being wickedly pushed into a pond by a passing opossum. When the skunk then drags itself back out again, it only finds the opossum gone. The footage gives a rare glimpse into the wildlife wars being waged around us every day.
“Some possums just want to watch the world burn,” wrote YouTube user Arielle beneath the winning video. Opossums, sometimes called possums, are marsupials native to the Americas. Famous for their inclusive diets and hardy survival skills, they make excellent colonizers and have successfully taken to a vast range of habitats and environmental conditions.
Omnivores like opossums are opportunists who are always on the lookout for any kind of food, be it a snack in a bin or inside your house, or, evidently, an unsuspecting skunk who’s ripe for a dunking, or even a drowning. But, despite the aggression demonstrated here, Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana) are normally craven animals and the internet is rife with photos of their dramatic poses as they feign death to get out of fighting or being eaten.
Yupp, when opossums are threatened or harmed, they will “play possum”, mimicking the appearance (and even the smell!) of a sick or dead animal. This is a physiological response and not a conscious act – it’s involuntary, like fainting. The brain of baby opossums, however, does not always react like that at the appropriate moment, and therefore they often fail to “play dead” when they should.
When an opossum “plays possum”, the animal’s lips are drawn back, the teeth are bared, saliva foams around the mouth, the eyes close or half-close, and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from the anal glands. The stiff, curled form can be prodded, turned over, and even carried away without reaction. The animal will typically regain consciousness after a period of a few minutes to four hours, a process that begins with a slight twitching of the ears.
The striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis, is also found across the U.S. and is able to release a potent, musk-filled scent to ward off predators. This is released from two scent glands either side of the anus, which contain around 15 milliliters of viscous fluid each. It can be projected several meters and has been compared to garlic, burning sulfur and concentrated sewer gas.
Well, this guy had no chance to emit that gas before being shoved into that pond. And who knows? Perhaps this lawless opossum was pre-empting a fragrant attack and thought it safest to strike while the skunk was unaware, knowing it would otherwise be covered in stinky yellow liquid?
Well, perhaps we’ll never be able to tell, as it might be part of a ‘scent war’ we’ll never really understand.