By presstime last week, 100 percent of the readers who submitted Wild Guesses pinpointed the Virginia opossum as the mammal of the week.
Often called possum, this animal is the only marsupial found in the U.S. and Canada. "Marsupial" means "pouched mammal."
Females possums may bear litters twice a year. The first breeding season is in late February and March; the second, in mid-May to early July.
As many as 21 young may be born about 13 days after mating. However, a typical litter numbers about eight.
Young are completely helpless upon birth and only are about the size of a bumblebee. They can crawl, though, and make their way into their mother's fur-lined pouch, where they can nurse and continue to grow.
According to the state Game Commission's Wildlife Note, "when a young opossum attaches and begins to nurse, the (mother's) nipple enlarges, forming a bulb on the end, which swells in the baby's mouth and helps it stay attached."
A female possum usually has 13 mammary glands, so if there are more than 13 offspring, the excess likely will die.
The mother can close her pouch to keep the young from falling out.
When they are 8 to 9 weeks old, the young will open their eyes and begin venturing out of the pouch, sometimes riding on their mother's back.
Winner of June contest
Alison Hopper, of Williamsport, was selected as the winner for the June "Take a Wild Guess" contest. She receives the following prize:
"Newcomb's Wildflower Guide," donated by Otto Book Store in Williamsport;
A National Audubon Society Pocket Guide to "Familiar Flowers of North America"; and
"A Pocket Naturalist Guide to Pennsylvania Trees and Wildflowers," published by Waterford Press.
To register for the July contest, the prize for which will be announced next week, submit a correct Wild Guess entry for the photo on Page F-1.
Entries must be received by noon Friday for the previous Sunday's photo. Guesses may be dropped off at the newspaper's office, 252 W. Fourth St., Williamsport, or emailed to email@example.com.