Creature Feature: Possums
Before we begin, we should answer the question we've all been wondering: is it possum or opossum?
Both terms are correct. Long story short: "possum" is short for "opossum", at least when we're talking about North American possums, which make up the largest order of marsupials in the Western Hemisphere. The term "possum" also refers to the Australian marsupial, who is arguably much cuter than the American opossum.
So what does the public actually know about the possum? Not much, aside from its scary teeth. Here are some facts that you may not have heard before:
- Possums are naturally immune to rabies. Due to their marvelous immune systems and low body temperature, it is rare for a possum to contract rabies. This will ease your mind the next time you, or your cat or dog, come face-to-face with a possum.
- They have opposable thumbs. The possum's opposable thumbs on their rear feet allow them to climb with ease. Possums and primates are the only mammals with opposable first-toes. Who knew?
- They "play possum." When possums are harmed or feeling threatened, they will "play possum", meaning they will play dead. This physiological response is involuntary, so if you come across a dead-looking or sick-looking possum, leave it there and give it a clear path to exit when it recovers.
- They're deceptive. Possums may hiss or growl and bare their 50 teeth when they are frightened, which can obviously be terrifying for humans, but they are actually very gentle creatures. Don't be afraid! They're more afraid of you than you are of them.
- They can be helpful. Surprisingly, possums can actually be helpful additions to your garden. Their diet consists of slugs, beetles, and snails, so they can keep your garden free of those pesky critters.
What To Do When You Have An Unwanted Visitor...
Now, despite clearing up some misconceptions about possums, they still don't belong in your household. Since they can climb extremely well, possums can get onto your roof, soiling it and finding ways to burrow into your home. That is not something you want to deal with!
Some signs of damage caused by possums include:
- Torn ductwork or insulation
- Raided chicken coops
- Stolen compost
- Pilfered trashcans or flower pots
- Opossum tracks (front paw with five toes and visible claws, and back paw with four clawed toes and one clawless opposable toe off to the side.)
For possum removal, or to prevent a possum invasion, contact AAA Pest & Wildlife! We are experts when it comes to wildlife removal and exclusion services.
And while you're at it, check out our "Primer on Attic Infestations" for some tips and facts to help prevent animal infestations.
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