The naked tail, weird, pointed snout, coarse fur, and long fingers are opossum’s features that make most people cringe.
Based on these traits, some perceive it as dirty and witless. But the truth is that opossums are clean, smart, and beneficial to humans.
What are the facts about opossums? They are the only marsupials found in the continent of America. Despite their rugged appearance and stinky smell to repel predators, they are clean as they regularly groom themselves. These animals have an excellent memory since they can remember the location of the food source. They have also shown superb problem-solving skills.
You may gasp with disbelief because of all these revelations, and you’ll feel sorry about judging opossums just by their looks.
But surprises don’t end here. There’s more if you read the rest of this article. By doing so, you’ll know opossums pretty well.
Table of Contents
9 Facts About Opossums
Here are more surprising facts about opossums:
1. Opossums Are Incredibly Agile
You may think that opossums are clumsy when you see them playing. The real score is that they’re excellent tree climbers because of their sharp claws and opposable thumbs.
With the prehensile tail, it’s effortless for them to hang on branches. It’s an essential skill as they live in tree hollows.
2. Opossums Make Strange Noise
It’s a rare chance to hear some noises from opossums. The young ones make a ‘choo-choo’ sound when calling their mothers which will respond with a clicking sound.
During mating season, it’s the male opossum that makes the clicking sound. When these creatures feel threatened, they may growl or hiss.
3. They Are Nature’s Cleaners
Opossums are omnivores, so they eat both animals and plants. Because of this, they are nature’s cleaners as their diet includes reptiles, birds, amphibians, small mammals, insects, eggs, and fruits.
They can even devour dead animals and venomous snakes without leaving a trace. Moreover, they can clean your garden by eating slugs, snails, and rotten fruits.
4. They Piggyback Their Young
Joeys or baby opossums come out from their mother’s womb hairless and blind. They’re big as a coin, and they continue to grow in their mother’s pouch.
There are only 13 teats on a mother that can give birth to up to 20 babies. So only those that can latch on the teats can luckily grow into adults.
In two-month times, the joeys can go out from their mother’s pouch and return by themselves. They’re old enough to have a piggyback in the said period.
5. They Help Curb Diseases
Opossums as marsupials are mammals. But they don’t cause Lyme disease. Instead, they curb it as they can consume thousands of ticks that bring the disease. They eat almost 90% of ticks that stick to their bodies. According to the University of Florida, opossums can consume a total of 5,000 ticks in one season.
6. They Have Impressive Tails
They have an impressive, prehensile tail that works as an arm. This part of their bodies is used in different tasks. It comes in handy when they need to take some leaves and grass to their nests.
Their tails give stability when they grip on the tree. Even the babies know how to hang on the branches through their tails.
7. The Play Dead
They play dead when predators are around. Due to intense fear, opossums fall on the ground with the tongue out and blank eyes. It’s a very convincing defense mechanism, and some predators will leave and look for another target.
However, the downside is that they don’t have control over their bodies when they play dead. It’s an involuntary response when they’re triggered by stress. Therefore, they can’t go back to the normal state as they wish.
8. They Can Stink
This part is connected with their ability to play dead. While it appears to be dead to its predator, it discharges a smelly substance from its anus. It’s the reason why predators move away and look for different prey.
9. They’re Immune to Rabies and Venom
As a marsupial, an opossum has a lower-body temperature, which doesn’t give room for rabies or virus to survive. The reason why it eats snakes without any adverse effect is the peptide found in its body.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Opossums Good For?
- They keep your surroundings free from pests like rats, mice, and cockroaches.
- They’re tough against venomous animals like snakes, and they can even eat them.
- Since they eat 90% of ticks that they can come across, they stop the spread of Lyme disease.
- Opossums can help your garden flourish by eating slugs, snails, and overripe fruits that have fallen from the trees.
What Are Opossums Afraid Of?
Opossums are afraid of the strong scent that comes from crushed garlic, mothballs, and ammonia. Of course, the presence and even the smell of predators scare them away.
What Is So Bad About Opossums?
Apart from cleaning the garden, they may even eat fruits or berries that they can reach from shrubs. When opossums get into your yard, they will just poop everywhere.
So, it’s an additional cleaning task. In some instances, they can have a fight with your pets which can be injured in the end.
Opossums can be infested with fleas, lice, mites, and ticks. So they can pass it to your pets. The worst thing that they can do is bring flea-borne typhus.
They’re also a carrier of diseases, such as Chagas disease, leptospirosis, relapsing fever, spotted fever, trichomoniasis, toxoplasmosis, tuberculosis, and tularemia.
Furthermore, they can bring diseases to horses called EPM or Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis through their feces. It’s a neurological disease that interferes with the functions of a horse’s brain and spinal cord.
Can Opossums Hurt You?
They can’t hurt you as they’re shy and harmless. When they’re threatened, they only exhibit two defense mechanisms. An opossum can look fierce when feeling scared as it shows its teeth and hisses.
But it doesn’t attack as it only gives a warning. When an opossum is exposed to danger, it plays dead and revives itself once the threat is gone.
Do Opossums Lay Eggs?
They don’t lay eggs as the hairless joeys come out from the female opossum.
Do Opossums Make Good Pets?
Opossums can make good pets because they’re docile and non-aggressive. It will be difficult for an owner to find a balanced diet to keep them fit because they’re omnivores and eat almost everything.
If they eat a lot in the wild, they can shed the excess fat by walking half a mile when searching for food. Keeping an opossum and not knowing their proper diet will only make them overweight.
A short-tailed opossum that is a native of Brazil is becoming popular as an exotic pet.
It’s cute as it only grows up to 4 to 6 inches long. It’s a great candidate for those who handle exotic pets for the first time because of its cleanliness, overall good health, and omnivorous diet. Additionally, it’s active and entertaining.
What Do Opossums Eat In the Winter?
An omnivore opossum can eat everything in the winter. Due to food scarcity, they target the content of the trash can.
Are Opossums Invasive?
Opossums are invasive in most places since they’re nocturnal. They are active at night for nine hours or more. The duration that they stay active depends on the season.
But they can be sociable since they show their social side in a study by sharing the den among each other. It also happens in the wild when the home range overlaps, and there’s plenty of food supply.
Do Opossums Eat Ticks and Mosquitoes?
Opossums eat ticks and mosquitoes since they like feasting on insects.
How Many Babies Does an Opossum Have?
An opossum can have two to twenty babies, but the average number is six.
How Many Nipples Do Opossums Have?
Opossums have 13 nipples.
Can Opossums Climb?
Opossums can climb. They’re even considered world-class climbers due to the opposable toes that they have on their hind feet.
Are Opossums Rodents?
Opossums are not rodents. They are marsupials.
Can Opossums Jump?
Opossums can jump one meter high. They can do it from a tree to another tree or roof within a distance that’s less than one meter.
Are All Opossums Cross-Eyed?
Not all opossums are cross-eyed. It only happens if there’s a case of obesity. The fat deposit pushes the eyes, which results in irregular alignment.
You’ve surely learned a lot of things about the opossum. Some facts surprise or bewilder you. Due to the rodent-like appearance of this animal, some people are not fond of it. But it’s a marsupial that also delivers good things. Learning its behavior opens your mind to have a better perspective on the opossum.