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Cofrin Center for Biodiversity

Opossum Sightings at Bocas

One of the objectives of the Panama travel course was to document more information on the woolly opossum (Caluromys sp.) near Bocas del Toro on Colón Island. Last year, students and faculty spotted and photographed a woolly opossum, which had previously not been known to reside on the island. The opossum was seen mingling in a banana tree. Our first approach was to set out infrared camera traps near banana trees in hope that we could capture an opossum in action. However, the opossums managed to evade the cameras during the first night. For the second night, we decided to move the camera traps to other locations, such as coconut trees, where we though opossums might also be found. While most of the crew tipped a few back, Chris and I decided to take a night hike around the STRI facility. To our surprise, we encountered an opossum in the exact same tree where we had set up the infrared cameras the night before! While the opossum was clearly somewhat nervous of our presence, it allowed us to get close and capture some great pictures. The opossum moved from the inflorescence, around the fruits, and into a branch. We were able to take all the pictures that we wanted and had a difficult time deciding when to leave.

The next day, we reinstalled a camera at the location where we had seen the opossum, but the animal didn’t return. However, we were somehow able to capture an opossum scavenging through banana peels on a different camera that we had set up to capture bats! Check out the video here. These few bits of evidence lead us to believe that this species of opossum probably relies heavily on banana trees. We are currently working to determine which species of woolly opossum we have been observing.

We are currently stationed in Gamboa, a small town in central Panama, located right on the canal. We will be continuing spider collections, hiking on Barro Colorado Island, and visiting the canopy crane.