The Opossums or possums are the small marsupial mammals that fall under the order Didelphimorphia. They are considered as one of the major marsupials that are found in the Western Hemisphere. This order consists of more than 103 that are further classified into 19 genera. They are natives of the South American region. They also became part of the North America following the Great American Interchange. It is because of their biological diversity, dietary habits and the adaptability of the reproductive system that helps them survive in all kinds of environmental conditions.
Table of Contents
- Basic Facts about the Possum
- Top 10 Possum Facts
- Getting Rid of Possums on Your Property
- How to Get Rid of Possum in the Yard
Basic Facts about the Possum
The word “opossum” is taken from Powhatan language. This terminology was used for the first time by John Smith and William Strachey in 1607 and 1611 respectively. These men learned this new language while visiting the British colony of Jamestown. Strachey later described the animal he saw as a beast which was as big as a pig. As per the observation of Smith, the head was similar to that of swine; the tail was like a rat and the size of that of a cat. The meaning of the word opossum in the native language is “white dog or dog-like beast.” The other name of the same is a possum. This is how it is known as in the Southern United States and Midwest. The same term was later used to describe and define the Australian marsupials that belong to the suborder Phalangeriformes. They were different from the opossums and close to the kangaroos in their appearance ad features.
The possums belong to the order “Didelphimorphia” which means animals and especially marsupials with two wombs. Possums are mediocre sized animals that are neither too large nor too small. They have a pouch fixed to their oldies. They are the only marsupials that reside in North America and Canada. Some of their species are also found in Australia. Their favorite habitat is the forest area that is close to the water reservoirs like the streams, marshes or the rivers. They also love to stay close to the populated areas like the farms or the private backyards. Currently, they do not fall under the category of the endangered wildlife. There are 60 different types of possums surviving all over the world.
The fossil records reveal that these animals are one of the oldest types of mammals that lived on the earth after the dinosaurs. They have a white-grayish fur that can be sometimes black or brown too. They often measure 15 to 20 inches and have a weight between 4 and 12 pounds. They can use their long tails to hang from the branches. They have 50 teeth in their mouth which makes them stand out among other mammals. According to their eating habits, they fall into the category of the omnivores. Their primary food elements include small animals like reptiles and amphibians. The other items that they love include fruits, eggs, and berries. Those living close to the trash areas prefer to dig deep into the garbage cans to find the delights for themselves. While in the jungle they are threatened by the predators like wild hounds, owls, and the Hawks. They can be easily hurt on roads, by different epidemics and even parasites. On the other hand, they are immune to the snake poison and rabies.
They are neither stationary nor territorial animals. Instead, they keep moving in search of better food. For this, they do not hesitate to explore all kinds of locations. They prefer to live in deep dug areas like the dens, holes, or the shelters. They are usually active at night especially when they have to hunt. This is what makes them a real nocturnal mammal. Their eyesight and the sense of hearing are not well developed, but the sense of smell is extremely developed. They rely on this well-developed feature. The collection of the possums living together is referred as passel.
They are great at defending themselves. They can use the claws to stop the predators from coming closer to them. They are drama creators too. As they feel danger coming towards them, they pretend to fall dead. This is an excellent technique to save them. The duration of this motionless activity lasts from one minute to 6 hours. Opposite sex is attracted by making a particular kind of sound from the males. As the male generates this sound, the female gets attracted, and this is the time of mating. As a result, the new possum opens his eyes in the world after 14 days. They are not larger than the honey bees.
Top 10 Possum Facts
They are considered to be herbivores that mainly feed themselves on the vegetation. They love to get the food from the plantations especially the ferns, buds, eucalyptus, flowers and fruits of all types. They also feed on small insects. Moths, eggs of small animals, snails are also their favorite meals. The young plant shoots are great to enjoy. If they hit any backyard or lawn, they will not hesitate to eat up the floral collections of roses, carrots, camellias, magnolia and wattles. Their food falls into three categories that includes fruits like grapes, bananas and pears; vegetables like broccoli and cucumber; and eucalyptus or species of acacia that are native to their countries of existence.
2. Defense from Enemies
They are very protective about the places where they live. Once they occupy a territory, they mark its limits with their urine. They are not very sociable because of their shyness. They are mostly peaceful and gentle but can be fierce when it comes to defending their territories. They signal their other members of the community by erecting their ears. The brushtail possum has a distinct feature of marking its territory with a red-brown stain that is due to the scent gland in their fur chest. They also identify the arrival of their enemy by making some sounds. Ringtail possum is known for secreting a sticky liquid from the anal glands. The possums are highly defensive for their friends.
Possums are comfortable in the rainforests. Eucalyptus forests and the wooded garden areas near rich sources of water can be an excellent habitat for the possums. Their favorite residential areas include the hollow trees. The soccer ball sized nests above the surface of the ground are the great feature of the habitat of the ringtail possum. These nests are made of the thick foliage that consists of the leaves, soft bark, and the grass. Apart from the natural vegetation, they love to stay in the roofs, garages, sheds and the chimneys.
These pouched creatures are usually nocturnal. The favorite period of feeding is between the dusk, and the dawn brushtail possums love to stay alone, and they look for a partner only when they are looking for the breeding and mating. On the contrary ringtail possums like to live in large families. Usually, the family consists of one or more female possums. The family shares all that they have including food, forage and the dray. The newborns feel safe in the mother’s pouch after they are born. The pouch has the teats to feed the babies. The duration of this dependency is 4 to 5 months. As they age of 13 months, they become sexually active. They live to an age of 6 to 11 years. They are great at jumping and crawling on the walls. Vertical walls are not a big deal for the possums to climb.
They are by nature peaceful animals. They do not want a particular space for shelter but instead hide in the areas where they find the safety and security. It can be foliage or a rooftop or a hollow tree. Despite their peaceful nature, they can cause a little or too big damage to any living area. They can be hazardous for the sheds, attics, verandahs, poultry houses and bird feeders. Once they enter into an area, they demarcate it with their urine as its belonging, and then they protect it all costs. The urine makes it stinky to tolerate because of its pungent smell. The destruction signs are much similar to many other animals, thus to confirm the presence it is essential to look for the foot marks.
6. Fur, Skin, and Meat
Possum is distinguished for its smooth and silky fur that consists of the hollow fibers. Due to the unique features of the fur, the possum’s fur is one of the most expensive materials that are sold in the Tasmanian region. It is because of this worth that 10,000 possums get targeted for the fur and meat. The Tasmanian people can get the permit of killing a 300,000 brushtail possums annually. This step is being taken to keep the crops protected.
7. Diseases and Immunities
Many possums living in the New Zealand region carry tuberculosis. This disease is not very common in the Australian region. The possums can carry harmful parasites, ticks, bacterial infections, and mites. Such infectious creatures can be dangerous for other living beings around them, may it be the animals and the humans. Their feces have particular Buruli bacteria that can cause skin ulcers in the human beings.
8. Unique Tail
Their tails are a fascinating part of their body. They are known for helping these animals to cling to any branch or part of the tree. The tail of a brushtail possum has a prehensile tip that works like a hand and helps them to get a firm hold of the branches. The ringtail possum has the same feature, and the tip of the tail is white. These possums can coil them quickly when they are idle. The tails are a great tool to transport the nesting materials.
Possums make unique sounds to attract their family or community members. Their smacking noises are meant to attract their opposite sex, or to get the attention or to warn against a particular danger proceeding towards the. Unlike the adult, possums are known as the jack if male and Jill if the female, the young joeys sneeze and hiss when in danger.
10. Major Disadvantages
Possums cause considerable damage to all kinds of wildlife. They are equally harmful for the plantation and the animals. If they occupy and invade any home roof, they can cause severe damage to that too. They can be a menace for the crops, home gardens, shrubs, expensive trees and the bushes. They are equally harmful to the human health as they transmit several diseases when they come in contact with the human skin. Even the feces have a dangerous bacterial infection.
Getting Rid of Possums on Your Property
Opossums are known as the nocturnal animals. They are highly adaptable and can settle down in all kinds of the environmental conditions. This flexibility ensures better chances of survival even in the hardest and extreme conditions. They prefer staying in places with either little or no light. Their favorite areas include the attics, sheds and the garages. They prefer those areas which can protect them from all kinds of harsh conditions. It is very easy to find the early signs of the possums settling in any particular part of your property, because of the burros and the holes they dig. Missing pet food from the feeder is also a sign that some intruder has tried to invade silently. The possums leave behind several signs of their first invasion like the garbage cans that are turned upside down. If the presence of the possums is not checked in time, they can be a real disaster for anything in your area, like the inverted garbage cans which they go through to find some food. To save yourself from their nuisance, it is essential to take all necessary steps at their earliest.
How to Get Rid of Possum in the Yard
Possums are one of the creatures that need to be dealt with immediately after their signs are visible. The yard is their best hide out. They can cause a lot of problems for the entire plantation there. It is important to take the following steps in this regard to get rid of the possums from the yard:
- Remove everything that attracts them like debris, stacks of autumn leaves, unused machines, and trimmed bushes on the ground waiting to be removed. These simple things can help you Possum-proof the yard. Leave no branch of the tree hanging near the home or over the roof to block the easy access into the home.
- Close all openings that are leading to the home. There can be many such easy ways in the yard that can be used by the possums.
- The possums look for shelter; hence remove all those things that can be a possible shelter to these possums. Keep all dark places like garages, sheds, stores and boathouses properly closed.
- Fencing and trapping can be useful in keeping them away. Some owners use the electrical fences too.
- Repairs all kinds of cracks and holes that connect the interiors to the outdoors. Do check for the broken windows, doors and deck lattices.
1. Inside Your Home
Possums are usually not very nasty and dangerous, but in desperation and stress, they can give you a harmful bite. If you find the traces of possum inside your home then following steps can be helpful in getting hold of them:
- Locate the point of entrance. Look for all possible openings, cracks, broken screens which are giving them easy access to the house. If you find the traces of any such spaces that are being used by the possums, then use traps close to them, or sprinkle the repellants or even the simple flour spread near the holes can work. The flour makes it easy to track the possums with the footmarks left on it.
- Possums are good at climbing and jumping. They can quickly climb to the top of the tree and then reach the attics in your property that they like. Thus it is crucial to block all possible heights that can bring them inside your privacy and cause damage beyond your thinking.
- It is imperative to seal the decks and the base of the buildings to get rid of the possible threat of the possums.
- Make it impossible for the possum to survive. Remove all food sources and the plausible sheds or protected areas that can help them hide and hit. Pack up all kinds of pet foods before the darkness hits. Add repellants to their possible entrances. Disturbing noises generated close to their rest areas, and nests can force them to leave the space. Keep the dustbins covered and empty them regularly.
2. In Your Crawl Spaces
Getting rid of opossums in your crawl space is a tough task. The problem arises because it is a limited area and not much space is given to the owner to carry out a huge action. Due to their nocturnal habits, it is a big challenge because they hide in light and try to stay away from the brightly lit areas. Mostly they try to find a hide out when they are in the light. To stop them from getting into your crawl space, it is better to add maximum light to these dark ones of the home. Moth balls placed in scattered areas can keep them at bay. If you find more than one possum disturbing your life, it is better to contact a pest control person to get rid of the silent enemy in your territory. It is important to know about the local animal trapping laws too. Traps added with their favorite baits can be a reasonable help to get hold of the possums in the crawl spaces.
Possums are small little beings that have many habits similar to the rodents. Their pouched pocket for the infant makes them stand closer to the kangaroos. They have a characteristically unique skin, fur, and meat. It is because if these valued products that they are ruthlessly hunted in the several parts of the world. The fur is used for making the fashionable scarves, wall hangings, etc. their diet is very simple as the like to go for the easy to get plantation and the small animals. They can go on a scavenger hunt for the eggs of the birds too. It is easy to reach all kinds of nests because of the climbing skill. The domestic life is also not out of reach. They are not very sociable and often try to stay away from their surroundings, but in case they get a chance to enter your property they can be a real problem. They are always looking for safe and secure shelters that can protect them. They love staying in the dark areas. In the homely interiors, they prefer staying in the dark parts because of their nocturnal tendencies. They love to dig in the dustbins and the garbage cans to search for the most suitable foods also. They make distinguished sounds to attract and caution the partners about the dangers coming closer. The possums are not very dangerous, but sometimes they can be hazardous both regarding the human health and the property.
Possums are not very dangerous in general. Despite the harmless nature, it is important to keep an eye on all of their activities and protect from these as much as possible. A slight touch of the skin and the feces can be a real problem for the person coming in contact. They can find a way into your most loved placed and can be a tough thing to deal with. They can be the hard hitters that can be a real danger for the places like the sheds, pet houses, garages, etc.
The brief details of most common problems related with the possum are as follows:
- Scavenging and digging through the trash which means they leave behind a mess.
- Harming all kinds of the pets.
- Eating your pets’ food from their feeders.
- Destroying places like sheds, decks and the attics.
- Damaging the crawl spaces.
- Spreading diseases and parasites.