One thing we can all agree on, is that we don’t want to find an opossum in our home or wreaking havoc on our garbage or gardens. They can be messy to clean up after, and once they find an entry into your attic, wall or basement it can be tough to get them out. They won’t mind making a home with you, but you will surely mind making a home with them. Let’s talk about what you don’t know about these pesky, yet often misrepresented marsupial.
Fear not. Opossums are actually almost immune to rabies. They are actually eight times less likely to carry rabies in comparison to wild dogs.
For the most part, opossums show partial and sometimes total immunity against the venom produced by rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and other pit vipers. We never thought we would be jealous of an opossum, but it sounds pretty supernatural and awesome to never have to worry about a snake bite!
Opossums are omnivores, meaning that they eat both plants and animals. They prefer meat, however. Opossums usually eat rodents, insects, snails, slugs, eggs, birds, frogs, plants, fruits and grains. Of course they also like human, dog and cat food (or really whatever they can find in the trash bag you leave out). They have a strangely high need for calcium, which drives them to eat the skeletons of rodents and road kill they kill or find.
Opossums are very intelligent when it comes to memory. They have an impressive ability to remember exactly where food is which means they are better at finding it and feeding themselves than rats, cats, rabbits and dogs. They can also successfully complete a maze faster than rats and cats.
While you don’t want an opossum in your garden eating your plants, you won’t mind if they are in your garden to eat snails, slugs and beetles that might be doing more long term damage. Opossums also compete with rats and cockroaches for food. Surprisingly, if they see a cockroach in their space they are known to hunt it down and eat it.
Because an opossum has opposable “thumbs” (or halux), they have a climbing advantage over some other animals. Their “thumbs” are found on their feet, and primates and opossums are the only mammals that have opposable first toes. Their long tails are also adapted for wrapping around tree limbs and hanging for short periods of time. They can carry food and other items with their tails wrapped around their bodies.
Teeth and Eyes
Opossums eyes are commonly misinterpreted as being black, but when you make eye contact with an opossum what you are seeing is an extremely dilated pupil. This is likely due to their nocturnal instincts and habitat. In their mouths, they hold a shocking 50 teeth! No wonder those trash bags are always torn into so many pieces…
To “play possum” refers to a trick where you pretend to be dead. When threatened, opossums can sometimes lash out by running, growling, belching, urinating or defecating. If none of that works, in desperate scenarios, the opossum will pretend to be dead. In a faint-like manner, they roll over, before stiff and close their eyes or stare off into the distance. Involuntarily, saliva foams around their mouths and a foul fluid is secreted from their glands. They can remain “dead” like this for up to FOUR hours, and it has proven to keep them alive and deter predators in their territory.
Jack and Jill and Joey
Male opossums (who actually have forked penises) are called jacks, and females (who have forked vaginas, leading to two separate wombs) are called jills. Their young offspring are called “joeys.”
In Need of Opossum Removal or Other Pest Control? We Can Help!
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