The Opossum is North America’s only marsupial (female has a pouch) mammal. The female carries and nurses her young until they are about 2 to 3 months old, then they are carried on her back another 1 to 2 months. They use their prehensile tail as a fifth hand to move around with and build nests, and they have a thumb on their feet.
Opossums lived during the age of dinosaurs: Opossum fossil remains that have been found are as old as 70 million years.
Sadly, Opossums are killed by predators, man being the biggest. Very few survive to become adults. Their average life span in the wild is only 1 year.
Opossums are solitary and nocturnal and usually slow moving. When frightened and unable to flee, they may fall into an involuntary shock-like state, commonly called “playing dead”.
When frightened, they may hiss and growl showing their 50 teeth… yet in reality, they are gentle and placid and prefer to avoid any and all confrontations.
Learning and discrimination tests rank the Opossum above dogs, more on the level of pigs.
Opossums love to eat beetles, cockroaches, snails and slugs and over-ripe fruit. They are also known to catch and eat rats and mice and consume dead animals of all types.
Opossums are Nature’s little Sanitation Engineers!!.
Opossums do not have a territory and are always on the move. Going where ever food is. Females stay in a smaller area while they care for their young.
Fortunately, opossums are hardy little animals. In general they present a far lower health risk to humans than to dogs and cats! They seem to have a naturally high level of immunity to most diseases.
OPOSSUMS ARE MORE RESISTANT TO RABIES AND DISTEMPER THAN ANY OTHER MAMMAL!! VIRAL DISEASES ARE PRACTICALLY UNHEARD OF IN OPOSSUMS.
With breeding season here,you may see a Opossums in your yard. This does not mean however, they are causing problems. They do not dig into the soil or destroy property.It is very unusual for Opossums to cause any trouble at all.
If however, one has chosen your garage, attic or other structure as it’s temporary home, there are simple and humane methods to get them to leave for more suitable spots in your neighborhood.
BEFORE you have a visitor to those structures, pick up pet food at night, keep lids on garbage cans, and close potential entrance points.
Ways to humanely get an Opossum who has already moved in to leave, are as follows:
- Place lights or a radio during the day where and when the animal is sleeping.
- Puncture several coffee cans and place ammonia soaked rags in them. Distribute the cans in several spots. DO NOT USE AROUND BABY ANIMALS.
- If gutters are being climbed, cover them with vegetable shortening up to an 18″ height. or, cover the vertical surface with an 18″ high length of sheet metal.
You can enjoy opossums as they wander through your yard, eliminating it’s pests along the way.
We can all learn to live in harmony with the gentle Opossum.
Help protect North America’s only marsupial, and the Earth’s oldest surviving mammal family.
If you find an injured or orphaned Opossum, call Native Animal Rescue for advice : 462-0726.
VIKKI SIMONS-KRUPP/ REHABILITATOR,BOARD MEMBER
NATIVE ANIMAL RESCUE