The site navigation utilizes arrow, enter, escape, and space bar key commands. Left and right arrows move across top level links and expand / close menus in sub levels. Up and Down arrows will open main level menus and toggle through sub tier links. Enter and space open menus and escape closes them as well. Tab will move on to the next part of the site rather than go through menu items.

The Buzz

Myth Buster: Opossums Don't Really Hang By Their Tails To Sleep

Opossum's tails are very useful for climbing, but they can't hang upside down from them while sleeping. Photo via Shutterstock)

Opossums have some unusual behaviors, but spending long periods hanging by their tails or sleeping while hanging by their tails isn't something they really do. It's a common misconception, and one that is perpetuated because of how these creatures are sometimes portrayed in cartoons.

Opossums have long, hairless tails that are reminiscent of rat tails. However, their tails aren't strong enough to support their weight while hanging from them, Indiana Public Media reports. They may be able to hang by them for a moment or two, and young opossums sometimes do, but not any longer than that because they do not have the muscle structure necessary to hold the position. The myth of them sleeping while hanging upside down by their tails just isn't true.

Still, though, their prehensile tails are impressive. They can use them much like a fifth limb to aid in climbing trees and other structures, according to the University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web. They can grasp things with their tails, and they use them to help balance and stabilize themselves. Although they can wrap their tails around branches and tree limbs, they aren't able to support their weight by hanging from them.

While their tails might not live up to the hype, another unusual behavior opossums engage in is absolutely true. They do play dead, a behavior that has been coined "playing possum." Playing dead is a defense mechanism for opossums, according to National Geographic. If an opossum is threatened by a potential predator such as a fox or dog, they'll sometimes flop onto the ground either with their eyes closed or staring off into the distance, looking as though they are dead. 

Playing dead isn't just an act. When startled or threatened by predators, the opossums sometimes enter into this catatonic state in which they appear dead, Animal Diversity Web reports. It can last a minute or two or as long as six hours.  

The playing dead act is what opossums are most well-known for, but it isn't very common practice. It's actually quite rare and usually done by younger animals, according to Animal Diversity Web. Opossums more commonly defend themselves by simply running away from predators. 


Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to The Citizen, our weekly digital newsletter that provides subscribers with updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family. If you're only interested in programs, subscribe to The Weekly Five, which outlines the five must-do programs each week. Signing up for either newsletter is easy and free of charge.

First Murder Hornets, Now Zombie Cicadas. Luckily, Their Names Make Them Sound Worse Than They Are


Zombie cicadas are the latest scary-sounding insect to roam the world, but much like the murder hornets before them they sound scarier than they actually are.

Read More

Quiz: What's Your Belted Kingfisher IQ?


Find out on this 10-question quiz.

Read More

5 Fascinating Facts About Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds


The ruby-throated hummingbird is among the most beloved birds in Will County, and the more you know about them the more you will love them.

Read More

Sign up for a Newsletter