On November 24 — the day after Thanksgiving — an employee at Cash’s Liquor Store in Oskaloosa Island, Florida found a “fairly large” opossum had broken into the store to polish off a bottle of bourbon. While the liquor store’s owner later admitted the opossum appeared to be 21, it’s still unclear how she muscled into the shop in the first place without getting carded.
“She came in from the outside and was up in the rafters, and when she came through she knocked a bottle of liquor off the shelf,” the store’s owner, Cash Moore, told Northwest Florida Daily News. “When she got down on the floor she drank the whole damn bottle.”
Though the story quickly made rounds on social media for obvious reasons, a wildlife biologist tells Inverse there’s an important scientific lesson to be learned from all this, namely that opossums keep getting misnamed.
“There are dozens of opossum species in the world,” wildlife biologist Imogene Cancellare tells Inverse. “In North America, opossums are often called possums. This refers to the same species, the Virginia opossum, the only opossum in North America.”
Phalangeridae, more commonly known as possums, is a family of marsupials endemic to Australia and New Guinea. The adorable common brushtail possum, which lives in Australia, is one example of a true possum.
“This species is in a different family of nocturnal marsupials (Phalangeridae),” Cancellare says. “The Virginia possum in North American is in the family Didelphidae, which is the largest family of marsupials in the Americas.”
So if you see a reference to an “possum” in the states, just know that this is actually an opossum. In this case, it’s an opossum that likes to get loaded.
At least this opossum tale has a happy ending. She was taken to the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge in Oskaloosa Island, where she was given fluids and released back into the wild.
Best of all, the opossum did not show signs of a hangover. That’s how legends are born, folks.