People often blame them for things they didn’t do such as tipping garbage cans or killing chickens. A lot of the time the only major complaint people have about them is simply that they are there.
Opossums usually don’t tip the trash cans or dig up gardens but they often stop to clean up the mess left by another animal and get all the blame.
Opossums Are Gentle Wild Neighbors
Opossums are peaceful animals that prefer not to fight although they may hiss, growl, and even bite if cornered. It is much more likely that the opossum will faint or “play dead” at the prospect of a confrontation.
This physiological response is involuntary and automatic. The stress and shock of the encounter actually triggers a comatose state that can last anywhere from 40 minutes to four hours. The opossum’s body becomes limp, its front feet form tight balls, its lips are drawn back, and drool runs from its mouth. The animal can be poked, turned over, and even carried away without reaction.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the opossums’ elaborate bluff routine is that it mimics not only the appearance but the smell of a dead animal.
Opossums Help Keep Our Backyards and Homes Clean and Free of Pests
People tend to think Opossums are unclean and disease ridden but it is actually just the opposite. Opossums are extremely clean. They are opportunistic scavengers who happily clean up after themselves and everyone else. Opossums will eat almost anything including, but not limited to:
- over-ripe fruit
- remains of dead animals
Opossums Are Important Allies In the Fight Against Lyme.
Like most small and medium sized mammals, Opossums are hosts to ticks. What makes Opossums special is that they are extremely good at finding and killing most ticks that hop on looking for a blood meal. According to Rick Ostfeld, author of a book on Lyme disease and senior scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, opossums kill more than 95% of the ticks that try to feed on them and can kill about 5000 ticks in one season!
Surprised? So were we. Apparently, Opossums are meticulous groomers who are very good at sniffing out the stowaways.
Opossum’s May Hold The Key To Curing Snake Bites
In addition to ticks, Opossums also eat quite a few poisonous snakes and this has caused them to develop a resistance to snake venom. Scientists are currently trying to isolate the component responsible for this remarkable adaptation. Given that an estimated 94,000 people die of snake bites each year, this would be a pretty big contribution on the part of the Opossum.
How Can You Help Opossums?
The best thing you can do to help opossums is be their advocates. Partly because of their looks, and partly because of their association with garbage, people tend to dislike them and often times opossums are attacked because of it. An alarming number of Opossums become victims of animal cruelty.
If you come across a “dead” opossum in the road or in your yard it is best to assume it is “playing possum.” Try and move it to a safe place and wait at least four hours before trying to dispose of the body. If it appears injured or you find a baby opossum please contact City Wildlife immediately.