Opossums Are Actually Kind of Awesome
It’s no secret that opossums aren’t cute, by any means. However, they’re often given a bad rep because of their physical appearance and people don’t bother learning anything else about them. Most homeowners assume opossums are rabid, scavenging, disease-carrying creatures who are up to no good, but that’s not entirely true.
As homeowners, we commonly assume opossums are a pest that we want out of our yards, and we forget they can actually be pretty beneficial! We’re here to shed some light (but not too much light, they are nocturnal!) on the situation and teach people a little more about opossums.
And before you ask, no, opossums haven’t hired us to be their PR team — we just know how misunderstood they are and want to raise awareness about them!
Things You Need to Know About Opossums
Because so many people have the wrong idea about opossums, we want to highlight a few things you should know about them that may change your perception:
1. Opossums having rabies is pretty rare
Due to their lower body temperatures (94-97º F), the rabies virus has a much harder time surviving in opossums than it would in an animal with a warmer core temperature. On that same note, you should know that any animal can contract rabies, yet opossums are actually eight times less likely to carry the virus than wild dogs.
2. They will not bother your pets
Opossums are pretty docile creatures and are unlikely to attack unprovoked. Because they are non-aggressive, they’re much more likely to play dead when coming face to face with your pet in an effort to avoid conflict altogether. Like any wild animal, they may bare their teeth when they feel threatened, but they won’t seek any sort of confrontation. If you think your dog is barking because they see an opossum, this is probably true (dogs bark at pretty much everything!), but the creature won’t harm your pet.
3. They are most likely not what’s causing damage to your home
Many people think the holes in their yard or damage to their roofs are caused by opossums — they’d be wrong. These animals have delicate hands and nails that are easily ripped out if they do too much digging or scratching. If you’re noticing damage to the exterior of your home and yard, there’s a very slim chance it was caused by an opossum. Because they live in holes, it’s assumed they were the ones who dug them, but they’re very opportunistic. They prefer to move into holes that were already dug by another animal.
Determine which animal is causing the holes in your lawn by reading our blog,
What’s Causing The Holes in My Lawn?
4. While they’re considered to be nocturnal, it’s not uncommon to see them during the day
Opossums are nocturnal, meaning they sleep all day and are active at night, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. During colder months, you may see opossums during the day. This doesn’t mean they’re rabid — they’re probably searching for food. Throughout the winter, opossums will burrow underground for several days at a time, but hunger will usually drive them out. It’s easier for them to search for food during the day because it’s much warmer than it is at night.
5. They’re immune to venom
Opossums are basically superheroes — they and some other animals like squirrels and badgers are immune to venom. Their blood contains a protein that neutralizes poisonous snake bites and protects them from harm. Scientists are studying the protein in hopes to someday find a way to cure snake bites in humans!
6. Opossums are pretty smart
While they might not look like the sharpest tools in the shed, they may surprise you! People tend to think they don’t know which way is up because they sometimes run straight for traffic, but they’re successful trackers. When compared to other animals like dogs, cats, rats, and rabbits, opossums were able to find and remember where food is better than the rest of them. Even if you move your trash can several times, opossums are likely to find it to scavenge for scraps, so make sure it’s closed securely.
7. They like to swim
If you have a pool in your backyard, be on the lookout for opossum that may get stuck. They enjoy swimming and are very proficient at it, but can sometimes have trouble getting out of your pool once they’re in it. If you don’t already have one, we suggest getting a pool skimming net so that you can scoop opossums out if necessary.
8. Opossums can’t control when they “play dead”
That’s right. They’re not just excellent actors. Opossums tense up and go into a comatose-like state that is triggered by stress — they have no control over it. Sometimes they’ll stay in this position for hours before they’ve calmed down enough to start moving again. This usually happens when they’re frightened by predators or humans trying to capture them.
9. They’re great for pest control
Because they are omnivores, opossums have a wide variety of food options. You should welcome them to your backyard and garden — they regularly feast on ticks, slugs, snails, beetles, and other pests that threaten your plants. On top of this, they also often drive away cockroaches and rats because they’re in competition for food. On some occasions, opossums have even been known to kill rats and roaches if they’re found in their territory.
How to Handle an Opossum in Your Yard
We’ve established that opossums are a misunderstood creature, so there’s really no need to be alarmed if you see one in your yard. They’re harmless animals that actually might end up being beneficial by eliminating pests for you! We hope we’ve successfully changed your view of opossums and that you’ll pass along this knowledge to your friends. (We swear an opossum did not write this post.)
At Killingsworth, we are experts in wildlife. Schedule a service with us today!