Field Notes

wildlife habitat

Misunderstood Opossum

opossum facts

When you were a kid, were you always the last to get picked for a sports game? I was. Now think about an opossum. Probably the last animal you want in your yard? Right?

But once you know more about opossums and how cool they are, they might become your number one draft pick to attract to your backyard. You’ve got to be kidding! Why? Let’s go thru some opossum facts and myths.

Misunderstood?

First of all, think back when you were a child. Were you misunderstood? Always last to get picked for sports? Wow, that brings back so many bad memories from my (Loti’s) childhood. I was always the last kid to get picked on any kind of sports team. As a kid, no one wanted me to play on their team since I was skinny and awkward. As a result, I hated sports and took every means possible to avoid gym class including forging my mom’s signature to get out of class. Sometimes it worked, other times…not so good.

The last picked!

I imagine that’s how so many animals would feel if they knew no one understood them. Think of the Opossum. First, most people mispronounce their name just like my name! It is opossum for the North American species, not possum, which is for the Australian species. Just like my name is Loti with a long “o”, not Lottie.

A Marsupial?

Many folks think of opossums as oversized rats with lots of teeth that wreak havoc in your yard. First, an opossum is not a rodent but a marsupial. Well then, what is a marsupial? Think of a kangaroo. Marsupials are mammals that carry their babies in pouches. Opossums are the only marsupial in North America.

A Tick Vacuum Cleaner

Second, opossums eat more ticks in your yard, up to 5,000 a season, than most any other animal. Read more about the ticks they eat here. Plus they eat roaches and even rattlesnakes. Wow, what happens if they get bit by a rattler? Well, they are immune to the venom so nothing happens. Pretty cool.

Two baby opossums playing.

Some other opossum facts. They clean up your yard of overripe fruit (they love persimmons) and spilled birdseed. They will not attack your pet unless provoked. They do not chew on wires, get in your garbage can or dig up your flowers. Oh, and they very rarely carry rabies as their body temperatures are too low for the virus to survive. Another misunderstood myth.

Our First Animal Rescue

When Dale & I first got together, we discovered a mama opossum in Dale’s empty swimming pool with a bunch of babies. Needless to say, she was frightened and had no way out of the pool.

A hissing opossum

After hissing at us with all her teeth barred, she somehow must have realized we wanted to help her, not hurt her. Backing off, she watched us. We put a bowl of water in the pool near her and Dale made a ramp so she could climb out. We sweetened the deal with some cat food smeared on the ramp and left her alone until the next morning. When we returned, she and her babies had escaped. Our first wildlife rescue as a couple!

Getting Your Opossum Facts Straight

So what is not to love about opossums? They get rid of unwanted pests, especially ticks that cause Lyme’s and all sorts of other nasty diseases, keep your yard clean and are pretty darn cute. Plus they could win an Academy Award for playing dead which they do if cornered. The opossum facts speak for themselves.

An opossum playing dead

So plant a persimmons tree in the hope of attracting more to your yard. I know we are! Help us spread the word about this wonderful misunderstood, underappreciated animal. And if I am picking a team of wildlife for our yard, the opossum will be my pick. Go Opossum!

opossum facts
A native persimmon tree, a favorite food of the opossum.
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