Opossums

Common Opossum

The opossum can be a pest when it takes up residence in neighborhoods. Usually these animals make their homes in hollow logs and trees but occasionally they can be found in crawlspaces and garages.

Opossums are omnivores and they will eat anything they can find. The name opossum comes from an Algonquin word meaning “white dog.” Opossums have adapted to survive throughout the US by eating a varied diet. Fruits, insects, and animal protein are all foods that opossums eat. Originating as a species in the east, they were introduced into the west, presumably as a source of food during the Great Depression. They are also nocturnal and only live where food is plentiful, travelling about a hundred yards at most for a meal. Opossums have the most teeth of any land mammal.

As the only marsupial in North America, a female opossum carries its young in a pouch on her abdomen, much like a kangaroo. The young are born after only a 13-day gestation period and are the size of small bumblebees. They develop for three months while clinging to their mother. Opossums have a very strong immune system and can survive bites from a variety of venomous snakes, such as cottonmouths and rattlesnakes.

Opossums give off an unpleasant musky scent and are about the size of a housecat. Their long scaly tails appear rat-like but are prehensile so they can use them to grasp and hold objects. This makes them very adept at removing food from garbage cans.

Another unique feature of the opossum is their propensity to appear dead when frightened. This trick called “playing 'possum” may lead you to believe they are dead. Approach an opossum that appears dead with extreme caution, as it may still be alive.