Some of our closest animal neighbors in the United States are marsupial
opossums. They live all over North America, as far north as Canada and as far south
as Mexico. While they are mostly a forest-dwelling animal, because humans
have encroached further and further into their territory, they have adapted
to living close to us. People create piles of food scraps every day, which
we pile into trash cans and send to the dump. Some animals, such as opossums,
are attracted to human dwellings and restaurants for the easy access to
food items. Many people regard opossums with fear or disgust, but they
are fascinating animals that are mainly just misunderstood. Here are a
few fascinating facts about opossums that might make you look at them
a little differently.
Fact #1: Opossums Carry Their Young
Opossums are marsupials, meaning they are mammals that give birth to their
young and then carry them in pouches in their bodies, much like kangaroos
or koalas. When they’re born, opossums can be as small as honeybees,
and the babies spend much of their time in their mother’s pouch
until they grow large enough to ride on top of her back without falling
off. Opossums can give birth to as many as 20 babies at a time. This may
seem excessive, but fewer than half of them will survive to adulthood.
Fact #2: Opossums Are Omnivores
Specifically, opossums are scavengers. They will eat anything they can,
including grass, nuts, fruit, birds, insects, worms, snakes, and chickens.
They may also eat roadkill if it is available. Because we have so much
food in the garbage, opossums are often attracted to human homes or cities.
This may seem like dirty behavior, but opossums have adapted to eat whatever
is available whenever it is available. This lack of picky behavior has
led to their thriving population. This very practice also helps clean
up after us.
Fact #3: Their Tails Are Prehensile
Opossums are tree-dwelling creatures, which means they spend a lot of their
time in trees and in high locations. Their sharp claws help dig into the
bark and keep them stable. Their tail is probably the most distinctive
part about them. It is designed to wrap around a branch and hold tight,
like an extra limb. Much like monkeys, they can use this tail to keep
their balance on the branch while the rest of their limbs are used to
forage for food.
Fact #4: They Act Really Well
These dramatic little creatures have developed an excellent way to get
other potential predators to leave them alone. If you’ve ever heard
of the term “playing possum,” this is in reference to the
fact that an opossum will play dead when confronted with dogs, foxes,
bobcats, or people. They will flop over onto their sides and close their
eyes or stare fixedly into space. They might also extend their tongues.
By all points and purposes, they look like dead animals. Because not all
animals are scavengers, they tend to avoid dead prey, which could make
them sick. Once the predator goes away, the opossum gets back on its feet
and goes back on its way. They can remain this way for up to 6 hours.
Fact #5: They’re Nearly Immune to Rabies
While many people might be afraid of contracting rabies from an opossum,
they’re more likely to get the disease from a wild dog. Opossums
are mostly immune to the disease. While any mammal can get rabies, the
chance of it surviving in an opossum is
exceedingly rare. Scientists theorize the opossum’s low body temperature, which
is about 94 to 97 degrees on average, makes it difficult for the virus
to survive in its body.
Fact #6: They’re Mostly Immune to Venom
Opossums have a molecule in their blood, called a peptide, which can neutralize
snake venom. This peptide works well against several venomous snake species,
including India’s Russell viper and the U.S. western diamondback
rattlesnake. Scientists have been using this discovery to attempt to neutralize
deaths by snakebite in humans. The World Health Organization has estimated
around 94,000 people die every year from snake venom. If opossums can
help solve this problem, they can save thousands of lives. They are also
immune to honeybee stings, scorpions, and even toxins such as botulism.
Fact #7: They’re Super Smart
While they may not be on par with human intelligence, opossums actually
excel in several areas of thinking. They have a remarkable talent for
and remembering where they found it later. When tested against other mammals,
they scored higher on their ability to remember where food is compared
to rats, rabbits, dogs, and cats. They can also navigate a maze faster
than cats or rats.
Fact #8: They Give Us Health Perks
too close to an opossum can lead to contracting some diseases, if they live
in the woods around your house, this could be beneficial. They act like
small vacuum cleaners that take care of ticks in wooded and grassy areas,
including those that can spread Lyme disease to humans and other animals.
Based on lab experiments, scientists estimate that during late summer,
when ticks are most abundant, the average opossum could be walking around
with roughly 200 ticks on its body. However, the opossums will kill around
4,000 ticks in a week, as they regularly groom themselves and eat the
ticks that might be living on them.
Fact #9: They Could Benefit Your Garden
Because they’re mostly up for eating anything, if they forage in
your garden, opossums could scarf up plant-eating insects, such as slugs,
snails, and other pests. As they also eat berries and other fruit, they
can be useful in dispersing seeds around your yard.
Fact #10: The O in Opossum Matters
While sometimes people drop the “o” in opossum, a possum is
also the name of a separate marsupial family made up of several species
in Australia and New Guinea. So, when referring to the opossum, you could
be confusing some people who are used to seeing the possums on the other
side of the world.
If you have an opossum family living near your house, or even in your house,
don’t fret. Our Houston animal removal experts can help. We can
remove the opossum in a safe, efficient, and humane way. We also back
our services with a limited lifetime warranty. If you’re concerned
about a wild animal near your home or business, let us see how we can
help. Our locally owned and operated business has been helping people
since 1983. Our technicians are also fully licensed.
Contact us at (713) 714-1947 or fill out our online form to schedule your free inspection today.