If Only They Had a Fluffy Tail

If Only They Had a Fluffy Tail

Learn more about a different kind of “prevention specialist,” a benefit to ecosystems and a healthy environment.

One of my favorite wild animals the opossum.  We all say “possum” but it is opossum if you want to be correct.  People say they are creepy, but I contend that if they had a fluffy tail, more people would see that cute face and fall in love with them, too.  Opossums are North America’s only marsupial and, as such, are pretty special.

They are not fierce or aggressive.  When they feel threatened, they will show their teeth and hiss to look mean.  They will actually “play possum” if attacked faking death to avoid injury.  They are nocturnal and very shy so you won’t frequently see them.

They are one of nature’s clean-up crew.  They are omnivores and will eat just about anything.  They love cat food left outside!  They also eat cockroaches, crickets, beetles, slugs, snails, even rats and mice.  They will also eat out of garbage cans and compost piles.

Where opossums shine is when they eat their favorite food:  ticks.  An opossum will eat an average of 5,000 ticks a year!  In areas with Lyme disease, they help keep down the tick population which is the cause of Lyme disease.

As marsupials, the babies, called joeys, can number up to 20, but usually 6-8, leave the birth canal the size of a jelly bean and make their way to the pouch where they attach to a nipple where stay until they are too big to fit at about 2 ½ months.  After that, they ride on mama’s back for another couple of months learning foraging and predator-avoidance skills.  Mama won’t go back for any babies that fall off so if you see a very small opossum, call wildlife rescue.  TWRC, Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition, is a very good resource for abandoned opossum babies.

I could go on and on about opossums like the fact that they actually make good pets and can be litter box trained.  However, in Texas, we cannot privately possess a wild animal. 

For a fascinating read, go to https://opossumsocietyus.org.  The opossum is truly a special animal.

Daphne Rashall

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