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© 2018 by Opossum Awareness & Advocacy

50 Main Street, PO Box 281, Winooski, Vermont 05404

Opossum Facts

Opossums do so much good for humans compared to many other creatures.  If you see an opossum consider yourself lucky, leave it alone and please do not harm it.

Please remember, OPOSSUMS ARE WILD ANIMALS. They should not be kept as pets. Indeed it is illegal in most states to do so.  On occasion, when attempts to return opossums to the wild have failed or opossums are injured and cannot be safely returned to nature, wildlife rehabilitators will keep opossums as pets. Only licensed rehabilitators should be in possession of wild animals.

That being said, the more we destroy the earth and nature, the less room there is for wild animals to live safely and freely.  Please support nature conservancy and the wildlife initiatives in your area to ensure all animals have the lives they deserve.

Below you will find numerous facts about opossums including the good and the not-so-good.

If you notice a fact that is missing, please contact us to let us know.

The Good

Opossums eat up to 5000 ticks per season thereby reducing our risk of contracting Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

 

They kill vermin, including mice (which can also spread Lyme and other infectious diseases), snakes, slugs and garden pests.

 

Opossums are not dirty; they groom and clean as much as cats.

Opossums are nocturnal.

Opossums tend to get along well with most cats.

 

Most opossums cannot contract or spread rabies due to their very low body temperature.

Opossums are the United States and Canada's only marsupials.

 

Opossums may look a little scary to the uninitiated, but they are actually timid.  They hiss when they are frightened and also faint when frightened.
 

Opossums are originally from Virginia (in the USA) but have migrated as far north as Canada. 

 

They have a hard time surviving in cold climates because they don't have very thick coats. 

Sometimes opossums play dead because they are afraid.  Please don't hit them with your car.

Opossums have a spectacular immune system, and a lower than average body temperature. This means that they don't carry a whole lot of the standard zoonotic diseases that other animals might carry.

Opossums have a serum protein in their blood that neutralizes snake venom, meaning that bites from poisonous snakes have no effect on them. In fact, scientists have produced an antidote to poisonous snake bites for humans using opossums' blood, but it is still being tested for large-scale production.

The Not-So-Good

Although an opossum might get rabies, it's very unlikely.

 

However, opossums do often carry fleas and other parasites, and the potential diseases that go along with those. 

 

Opossums also defecate a lot and if they get in your attic the droppings can contaminate the area and pose the usual excrement health risks, such as leptospirosis or Salmonella.

 

Just like humans and other animals, opossums can carry certain diseases, though due to their low blood temperature, they carry far less diseases than many animals. 

 

It's possible for opossums to carry leptospirosis, tuberculosis, relapsing fever, tularemia, spotted fever, toxoplasmosis, coccidiosis, trichomoniasis, and Chagas disease.  

 

Opossums (as well as a few other creatures) can also carry a parasite called Sarcocystis Neurona which can lead to Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) - a neurological disorder.  If a horse eats contaminated feces it could develop neurological signs and even death.  The majority of opossums are probably not shedding the infective parasite and all horses exposed to the parasite do not contact EPM.  Regardless, it is better to be safe than sorry and to take steps to keep opossums away from places that horses eat.  Learn more here.

Opossums also are prone to killing small ground birds, such as chickens, if they can catch them.  That's why it's very important to keep your birds well caged and safe after dark.  Learn more here.

Opossums rarely bite humans, they are more prone to hiss and/or faint.  Still, it is possible that an opossum can bite if feeling threatened or cornered.