All manner of sins have been committed in pursuit of just five minutes of fame, and a recent competition hosted by Trail Cam Pro highlighted how life in front of the lens can capture us at our worst. Of the six winners named, the top slot was taken by Betsy Potter from New York for their night-time footage of a skunk being pushed into a pond by a passing opossum. Re-emerging from the indignant episode following a comical splash, the skunk drags itself back out again to find the opossum gone. The footage is an excellent example of the silent 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 mistakenly 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.
About the size of a domestic cat, the omnivorous are always on the lookout for opportunities, be it a snack in a bin or inside your house, or, evidently, an unsuspecting skunk who’s ripe for a dunking. Despite the aggression demonstrated in this short clip, 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. It’s an adaptive defense mechanism known as tonic immobility and they do it so often it’s also known as “playing possum”.
The striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis, is also found across the states and can 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. Perhaps then, this lawless opossum was pre-empting a fragrant attack and thought it safest to strike while the skunk was unaware less wind up covered in stinky yellow liquid (but it might have felt guilty if it knew how cute these animals sound.)
Other successful entries to the 2020 Trail Camera Video Contest include a deer sending out plumes of water vapor as it breathes in the cold air, a bobcat hot on the tail of a squirrel and a wild turkey putting on quite a show.
If you’ve ever caught any comical scenes on your camera traps send them through to firstname.lastname@example.org or let us know on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Earlier this year, one conservation photographer returned to his trail cam to find a surprising visitor had swung by for an impromptu photoshoot.