Just when I thought I knew everything there was to know about New York's opossum population, the bare-tailed cuties hit me with another surprise.

I've always been fascinated by opossums (opossums live in the Americas, possums live in Australia). While they're not always the most photogenic animal, their lumbering gait, bad eyesight, and overall calm demeanor have made them one of my favorite species in the animal kingdom, especially after what I saw them do in a recent video.

Photo of an opossum opening its mouth wide to collect leaves for its den
This opossum is opening its mouth wide to collect leaves for its den (DFW Urban Wildlife via Facebook)

Opossums in New York State

Opossums are a very helpful native animal in New York State, but there are still some misconceptions. While it's true that their low body temperature makes it nearly impossible for an opossum to have rabies, another "fact" about their tick eating skills may have been highly exaggerated. What will always be true, however, is how skilled they are at using their tails.

An opossum gathering leaves that it will then grasp in its tail to bring back to its den
This opossum is gathering leaves that it will then grasp in its tail to bring back to its den (DFW Urban Wildlife via Facebook)

How Opossums Use Their Tails

"Here's a look at an Opossum collecting leaves to use as bedding in his den", began the caption for a video posted by the DFW Urban Wildlife Facebook page (below). What was surreal about the trail camera footage was how the opossum brought the leaves back home.

New York Opossum Myths

While it's another myth that opossums sleep while hanging from their tails, they still come in handy (pun intended) for many other activities. Prehensile tails (meaning they have the ability to grab things) assist opossums in climbing trees and in this case, gather leaves for their home.

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Opossums are such an unusual creature that it shouldn't come as a surprise that there are so many myths perpetuated about New York's only marsupial. They may not devour thousands of ticks or hang upside-down for bedtime, but these rabies-resistant, playing-dead-as-a-defense-mechanism, leaf-gathering sweethearts should enter your pantheon of favorite animals, too.

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