In WNC, we hear a lot about black bears, but today I want to talk about another critter you’ve likely encountered: possums. Officially known as Virginia opossums, most of us simply call them possums. Not only are they North America’s only indigenous marsupials and country music legend George Jones’ (R.I.P.) nickname, they’re really cool little creatures with their own unique place in the Tarheel state’s culture + history. From Brasstown’s now-defunct Possum Drop to the tale of Slow Poke the possum, possums deserve a little recognition + attention. Plus, they’re NC’s official marsupial.
I’ve always found their little faces strangely endearing + charming. It turns out I’m not the only one. Today, possums are quite trendy. Folks who keep possums as pets are amassing huge followings on social media, designing + selling their own merch, and even shilling for brands.
To get the real scoop on these kooky creatures, I spoke with the WNC Nature Center’s Curator of Education and Guest Experience, Eli Strull, who’s cared for possums before, but notes the Nature Center doesn’t currently have any. Here’s what I found out.
Possums help prevent disease While some of us grew up hearing possums are dirty and carry diseases, it turns out they actually help protect us from them. “Possums are less likely than other mammals to carry diseases,” says Eli. “They are resistant to rabies and they can eat dead meat without contracting botulism — plus they can eat thousands of ticks in a season, helping prevent the spread of diseases.” Possums are also resistant to poisonous snake venom, and they often snack on rattlesnakes + copperheads that might otherwise bite people.
They’re uniquely self-protective “People have 32 teeth, and possums have 50, and when they become scared they can show all of them,” he says. Those of us who have ever seen those teeth + heard its fearsome hiss likely have that experience tattooed on our memories. Possums also infamously “play possum,” when they feel threatened. It turns out that this reaction isn’t planned, but rather “is an involuntary brain response,” says Eli. “When they do this, their whole body stiffens, they foam at the mouth, and they emit a foul smell,” all of which helps keep them safe and prolong their short lives (in the wild, they generally live to about two years old). Under human care, they can live longer (typically three to six years).
Arts ○ Good news, art lovers. The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (BMCM + AC) will reopen its doors on Sept. 16. Folks will be allowed to enter the museum 10 at a time, and masks + social distancing measures are required. The library will be available by appointment only. BMCM + AC will be open Mon.-Sat. from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 🖼️
Active ○ The inauguralBlack Bear Half Marathon will take place Sat., Oct. 10 in Hendersonville along the Oklawaha Greenway. The route consists of numerous loops, and the 13.1-mile course takes place on a mostly flat, paved road. Participation is limited to 300 people, and the race features twelve wave starts with a max of 50 runners in each wave. Runners must sign up for a wave start time when registering online. A virtual run is also available. 👟
Cause ○ To raise funds for its mentoring programs, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina in Henderson County is hosting an online auction featuring 70 items including art, personal services, trips + more. The auction goes through Oct. 8, but you can purchase whatever you want at any time until the end. Wanna skip the auction but still help out? Donate here. ○ Flat Rock Playhouse is hosting an intimate fundraiser featuring Nat Zegree’s Virtual Cabaret. The virtual event lasts for an hour + the contribution tiers range from $100-250 in support of the playhouse. Depending on the contribution, participants can look forward to a virtual meet + greet + a dinner for two available for pickup on the day of the event. 🎶
Learn ○ Learn how to make delicious cultured condiments likepickles, sauerkraut + more with Wild Abundance’s Vegetable Fermentation class. The video-based class is 75+ minutes long and features an overview of the four basic fermentation techniques, as well as troubleshooting. Plus, there’s a nifty PDF for reference. The class is$45. 🥒
DYK ○ The YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly(84 Blue Ridge Cir., Black Mountain) is holding its first annual fundraising tool sale Sept. 18 and 19. Featuring over 8,000 tools + accessories like saw blades, drill bits + more at up to half off, it’s a great way to round out for your home or professional tool kit. Best of all? All the proceeds will go directly to the org’s emergency relief fund. 🧰
Dish ○ Need some nosh to fuel your next outdoor adventure? French Broad Chocolates’ new elevated trail snacks, the Blue Ridge Collection, features locally-sourced, chocolate-dipped dried fruit, housemade granola + granola bars, and fudgy brownies with a granola crust topped with peanut butter granola. Peep the whole collection here. 🍫
TodayIs ○ The 19th anniversary of September 11, 2001, when 2,996 people lost their lives in terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.
Correction ○ Star Diner(115 N. Main St., Marshall) will reopen for carryout service on Sept. 17 – the next new moon. A previous mention of the restaurant listed the incorrect website. 🌚
Events ○Cider Cinema: Dirty Dancing | Fri., Sept. 11| 6:30-9 p.m. | Bold Rock Hard Cider, 72 School House Rd., Mills River | Free | Grab a cider + food under the stars while watching a cinema classic. 🎥 ○ Yoga in the Park | Fri., Sept. 12 + Sat., Sept. 13 | 1-2:15 p.m. | 220 Amboy Rd. | $10| Pre-registration is required for this all-level Hatha/Vinyasa flow. 🧘
Disclaimer: It is up to readers’ discretion to determine whether they feel comfortable participating in any mentioned events based on COVID-19 protocols and precautions. If you have questions, please contact the event’s organizers directly.
Calling all writers (yes, aspiring ones count): There’s still time to sign up for an online writing workshop with the Great Smokies Writing Program. Workshops begin next week and topics range from poetry + creative nonfiction to young adult fiction + prose.
The 10-week workshops take place on Zoom, which means you can get your creative juices flowing without ever getting out of your sweatpants. Take it from the AVLtoday team, it doesn’t get much better than that. Check out the class offerings here. 🖋️
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○ Check out the latest COVID-19 stats for NC from the Department of Health and Human Serviceshere. As of Thursday afternoon, 2,685 cases and 72 deaths have been reported in Buncombe County.
○ Area residents are taking part in the COVID-19 Phase Three Efficacy Trials to help facilitate vaccine development efforts. Phase Three will monitor the results of success, failure + potential side effects when given to 30,000 volunteers. The FDA notes the risks are minimal and include soreness at the injection site.(WLOS)
○ Buncombe County Schools has made contact tracing + contacting individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 a top priority to keep school communities safe. While schools cannot release the names of individuals that have contracted the virus, those exposed will be notified + school communities will be informed using available communications channels. (WLOS)
○ Governor Cooper’s office will not issue an executive order that would have offered labor protections to agricultural workers during the pandemic due to pushback from state officials. The order would have required greater enforcement of social distancing, increased sanitation practices, proactive COVID-19 screenings + more. Critics of the order say it would have resulted in overregulation.(The News & Observer)
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