An opossum belongs to marsupial mammals from the order Didelphimorphia. There are more than 60 different opossums species present in the world. In North America region they are popular with a name of possums. The most prominent species of opossums are Virginia opossum and Common opossum. Some people consider it as one species, but actually, they are two different species. The scientific name of the Common opossum is Didelphis marsupialis, and the scientific name of Virginia opossum is Didelphis virginiana. The opossum is the only pouched mammal (marsupial) that exists in Canada and United States.
Opossum body size is about 21 to 36 inches long. This length measures from nose to the tail. The body weight is approx 4 to 6 kilograms or 8.8 to 13.2 pounds. From the length perspective of their body, they look like a cat or a kitten. Besides having a cat-sized body, other physical features of opossums are extended, pointed pink-coloured snout, gray colored fur with a white face. They have dark colored beady eyes and ears having no hairs on them. These creatures possess four paws and a long tail that is almost one-third of its whole body size. Like their ears, opossum tail is also hairless. By nature, opossums are nocturnal. For a reason, they stay awake whole night and keep sleeping during the day time. They keep searching for their food during night time. Opossums do not build their shelter place, and they usually prefer to live in den and caves evacuated by other animals. This is a very adjustable animal and can happily live in different shelters types like woodpiles, burrows, brush piles, empty logs and even in attics or other structures made by humans. Generically, they prefer to live in forests or other those woodlands having a source of water on its premises. They can easily adapt to changing the climate or different habitats. The basic things opossum needs to live are just water, food and shelter.
Like their adaptive nature of the habitat, they are also adaptive for food. Opossums are omnivores which mean they eat both meat and vegetation. They satisfy their hunger by eating fruit, nuts, seeds and plants. On the other hand, they also kill and eat birds, snakes, and other insects. Opossums reproduce twice a year. After breeding, a male opossum that is usually known as Jack leaves its female (also known as jills). Jills after a small gestation period of only 12 or 13 days give birth to more than twenty baby opossums at a time. The baby opossums are also known as joeys. These joeys are almost equal to a size of a jelly bean at the time of their birth. The joeys move quickly to their mother’s pouch right after their birth to continue further growth process. Opossums can reproduce at the age of 6 to 8 months, and their entire lifespan is 12 to 24 months.
10 Fascinating Facts You May Not Know
Almost many of us know the basic facts and details about opossums. However, they also have some unique features and characteristics unknown to many people. Here, we will confer interesting facts about opossums:
- Unlike all other mammals, opossums contain remarkable 50 teeth in total. Thus it can be said that opossums have a good smile.
- Opossums do not hibernate during extreme winter weather; rather they become slow and protect themselves from extreme weather using other tricks. During winters, they prefer to live in burrows. They fill their burrows with dead leaves, papers, and other materials to keep them warm. The fat reserved in their bodies also helps them to stay warm during winters. During summers, they keep licking and spitting themselves to keep their body temperature low with the help of their saliva.
- Opossums are scavengers in nature, and they hunt for the food. These creatures sometimes make trips to human localities and search the houses for tin cans, garbage, and other useless stuff. Opossums eat anything available to them. They can even eat garbage, dead animals, and other rotten material too.
- They have oddly elevated requirement of consuming calcium. That is why they can be seen eating skeleton of different roadkills and rodents they found.
- Opossums have a noteworthy tail. They possess prehensile tails, a tail that hold and grasp different things. Their tail can also adapt to hold or to wrap itself around tree limbs and other similar things. Opossums can even hang from their tail, but this ability is just for a shorter period. They cannot sleep while hanging from their tails. These species usually hold things like leaves and other eating material by wrapping its tail around. Thus, it may seem like opossums’ tail is their fifth additional hand or limb.
- The most notable fact of opossums is their habit of mimicking. They are quite renowned for “playing possum.” When opossums are scared or injured they convert themselves into a pose like a dead or sick animal. In order to fool different predators like foxes and dogs, opossums fall down immediately on their side with their eyes closed or gazing at one point, exposed teeth, lips drained back, and saliva formation around its mouth area. Moreover, they also create pungent smelling secretion from their body. All these measures help opossum to stay protected from their predators. Another interesting fact about playing possum is this poor creature do not perform mimicking act consciously; rather it is their automatic and involuntary natural action used for the protection. Naturally, they have such psychological response to hazard situations. Sometimes their habit of mimicking proved even worse for them. Many people mistaken injured opossum as a catatonic animal and they kill them away to prevent its bad effects.
- Opossums have an adamant sense of smell. However, they do not have good eyesight or sharp sense of hearing. An opossum eye seems black and dark colored, but actually, their pupil is sturdily dilated with iris around it that is almost invisible. The presence of giant pupil is actually because of their nocturnal habit.
- Another remarkable feature of opossums is their opposable thumbs. These thumbs exist in their back feet. These thumbs assist opossum in their unexpectedly terrifying climbing expertise. Other than opossums, primates are the only mammal that possesses opposable thumbs.
- Besides being the best climber, opossums have a smart mind too. They have an extraordinary ability to search for food, and they even remember the place too. When they were tested for their ability to remember the food, they turned out to be better than cats, dogs, rabbits and rats. They also have an ability to make their paths through different networks and web speedily than cats and rats.
- Above and beyond losing most of their habitats, these species are still not endangered. Overall opossum species have a stable population. The reason behind it is their ability to adapt to any habitat. They can easily adjust in both urban and suburban area.
Two More Surprising Facts
Besides other interesting facts about opossum, here are two more super surprising opossum facts:
- Opossums Do Not Transmit Lyme or Other Tick-borne Diseases
The opossum is the best solution to keep those monsters away that can cause tick-borne disease like Lyme. They are considered highly useful to keep these disease-causing animals away from your area. The everyday diet includes rats, snakes, snails, and carrion. Eating these creatures especially tick will result in demolished population of ticks that is an actual opossum benefit for humans.
- Opossums May Also Provide Snakebite Anti-venom
Another surprising fact about opossum is their ability to resist venom created by snakes. They have an active immunity to snake poison. The truth behind this ability is their lower body temperature that makes opossum unfriendly for many diseases.
How to Get Rid of Opossums
Many people especially the garden owners usually face many problems because of pests, insects, and other such creatures. The opossum is one of them. It will enter your locality and create problems for you. Though they are not much dangerous and aggressive like other pests and animals, they can create a mess in your area by urinating everywhere. These creatures will even fight with your pets for food. Furthermore, they are also responsible for transmitting disease. In case, opossum gets scared they will create an unbearable smell that will contaminate entire surroundings.
In order to catch and eliminate opossum, first identify the areas where the activities are suspected. To get rid of opossum permanently, you should remove all opossum attractants from your area and should limit their access to your home. How will you do both these things? It has been discussed below:
1. Remove Attractants
First of all, the famous characteristics of opossum should be kept in mind. They are scavengers and highly adaptive in nature. Availing both these attributes, opossums will enter your locality and would eat whatever they would get and will stay wherever they find a shelter. They are also highly innovative. They will not be reluctant to use your garbage and other junk materials. Any covered, dark area they will found in your garden, they will make it their shelter. Therefore, your first step should is to remove opossum attractants from these places. In this regard, you should keep a check on following things:
- Don’t feed your pet outside your home. In case, you did, do not forget to clean all leftovers properly.
- After having barbecue party or other gatherings in your garden, pick up all remainings and clean all utensils and grills properly.
- Don’t keep any wood material or logs in your lawn. Wood logs are a favorite shelter for opossums.
- Try to keep garbage containers far away from your home. These vessels usually feed various pests in your area. Cover it tightly and clean it at regular intervals to remove small garbage.
2. Limit Accessibility
Opossum only starts troubling you when they get access to your home, garden, or farm houses. Once they get access to your area, they will start creating a mess by teasing your pets and will start eating small birds and their eggs. Therefore, it is crucial to limit the access to your region to prevent many opossums’ damages. Follow these simple tips to stop them entering your area:
- Seal all entry points of opossums. It can be a small hole, openings in your wall or any other entrance point.
- Cut down all branches that are almost 10 feet lower than your attic. As opossums are a perfect climber, they can jump from trees to your attic and will start living there.
3. Use Live Opossum Traps
Besides removing attractants and limiting their accessibility, other most effective way to get rid of the opossum is to remove them alive with the help of live traps. Details of a few live traps are mentioned below:
OxGord Live Animal Trap
- Product Description
This trap can make opossums alive by keeping bait inside. It is a humane way to get rid of pests, as they will not harm or injured opossums. It will only trap them, and then you can release them wherever you would like.
- Where to Place
The trap should be placed in the pathways and entrance areas of opossums. Also, you can place the traps near their possible shelters.
- How to Use
To get effective results from this trap, place this trap in a proper location, where the visit of opossums is definite. Put favorite opossum bait inside the trap and hide it with the help of rotten leaves, and twigs. After setting this trap, leave it and wait for opossum visit.
- It is safe and humane.
- It can perform heavy duty as its handles and walls are made up of strong material that prevents animal escapes from it.
- The trap is easy to use.
- The size is small to catch a large-sized opossum.
Woodstream Live Animal Cage Trap
- Product Description
Woodstream live animal cage trap is made of durable, rust resistant material with small mesh openings to keep animal trapped inside the cage. It also contains responsive doors having plenty of spring that can catch animal quickly without causing them any harm. It also contains soft interior edges to protect animals.
- Where to Place
For effective functionality of this cage, it is important to decide the accurate location for placing this trap. It should be positioned in the area where visits of opossum are obvious. It should be placed near their shelters or entrance points. If you do not get a positive result after setting this cage, try to relocate its position to ensure the animal visit.
- How to Use
First of all, prepare tempting bait for opossums. Put it inside the cage and place the cage in an exact location. Hide the cage with leaves, grass, and twigs. Make sure light should not enter the cage and it should be made darker to betray animals. It is also better to keep only baits for the few days for opossums to make them visit this location again.
- Besides opossums, it can be used to trap other animals like rabbits, rats, and other similar small animals.
- It is simple, easy to use and humane way to trap opossums.
- Sometimes it becomes nasty to touch inner side of the cage for the purpose of putting bait inside.
4. Use Electric Opossum Repellents
If all live traps techniques get failed to eliminate opossums from your area, try using electric opossum repellent. It will work correctly for you. The device is easy to use, clean, eco-friendly and quite effective to repel animals. It works by starting bursts of water wherever they find opossum activity. All it need is a water supply, and it will keep pests out of your area.
Another easy and effective way to prevent this creature is to build a fence around your locality. Though opossums are the skilled climber, they can even climb your highly build fence too. However, one should give a tough time to opossums while they try to invade your region by building a critical fence. It is preferable to use fence made up of woven wire and build it at the height of 3-4 feet at least. Try to make pointed angels on the outer side. It will make fence climbing difficult for them.
To keep your garden and home safe, neat, and disease free, you should keep an eye on different pest activities in your region. Any carelessness can create a long lasting problem. One of the troubles creating animal opossum has been discussed here along with tips and tricks to prevent them from entering your zone. Take suitable precautionary measures and stay healthy and trouble-free.