Watch Opossum Play Possum to Escape Death from Jaws of Coyote

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

You've no doubt heard the phrase, "playing possum." It comes from an opossum's tendency to play dead when it feels threatened. 

Wonder just how effective this response is for protecting it against predators? Just watch the video above and you'll see. 

Although you may think that playing dead would just make the opossum easy prey for the hungry predator, it actually helps protect the opossum by eliminating the excitement of the kill. Most predators prefer to chase and kill their own prey. If the prey animal is already dead, the predator often loses interest.

And the phrase "playing dead" isn't exactly accurate as the response is an involuntary reaction to threatening situations. According to, when under stress, an opossum's body will go limp and it stops responding to external stimuli. Its tongue will hang out and its eyes will roll back in its head. The heart rate slows and breathing becomes shallow. The opossum even emits a smell that fools predators into thinking it is spoiled meat.

This comatose state can last several minutes or even several hours. Once the threat has passed, the opossum will get up and go on its way.

The description beneath the YouTube video above states the opossum played possum for approximately 40 minutes and then got up and walked away. 

Have you ever seen an opossum play possum?

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