Are opossums raiding your garbage can in Cordova TN? Opossums are known as the "garbage disposals" of the animal kingdom. These odd little creatures will eat almost anything. The opossum is omnivorous, feeding on almost anything it can find or catch. You may have noticed this if you found one pawing through your garbage can.
Ticks, particularly deer ticks, are a main item on the opossum’s menu! An opossum’s voracious diet consists of carrion, rodents, snakes, insects, slugs, frogs, plants, fruits, and garbage. They catch and eat rats and mice. Opossums are the “sanitation workers of the wild”! They have an unusually high need for calcium, motivating them to eat the skeletons of rodents and road kill. That habit gets about 8.3 million opossums killed a year!
Opossums rarely cause problems for humans, but often frighten people by their rat-like appearance. These are not aggressive animals but when encountered directly, they will hiss and growl. Opossums get a bad rap as garage invaders and “creepy looking” animals that wander up onto our porches at night. And opossums certainly are not the cutest little animals. In fact, some go as far as calling them ugly! They resemble a silver rat, with naked ears, long scaly tail and silver-tipped fur. The face of the opossum is almost pure white, with a pink nose and eyes like black shoe buttons.
Actually, opossums are incredibly useful and typically misunderstood. Opossums provide free pest control! They are more beneficial as scavengers, than harmful for any damage they may cause. Opossums are excellent at rodent and insect control and, being carrion eaters, help keep roadways and neighborhoods clean. A neighborhood with opossums is considerably cleaner than a neighborhood without them!
It’s Not Easy To Be A Baby Opossum.
Baby opossums are called “joeys”, just like baby kangaroos. Immediately upon birth, they use their strong front legs to clamber into their mother’s pouch. Young opossums are tiny at birth — about the size of a grain of rice — and are blind, deaf and furless. They are so tiny that about 10 can fit on a teaspoon! Many do not make it. And once in the pouch, life gets no easier.
An opossum litter may consist of 25 young. A mother opossum has only 13 nipples, so only those babies able to grasp a teat will survive. If the baby doesn’t fasten to a functioning nipple, it dies. As the babies age, they start venturing out of the pouch. But instead of wandering around on their own, they will often hitch a ride, clinging to their mother’s back as she scavenges. The young are fully independent at about three months. They leave to live the life of a solitary opossum — a transition that 60 percent do not survive.
Opossums are incredibly agile. These animals are world-class tree climbers, with sharp claws and opposable thumbs on their hind feet. Their prehensile tail helps them scale tree trunks and hang onto branches. The opossum’s long pink prehensile tail can be used as a fifth hand! Basically solitary, opossums avoid one another except during the breeding season in late winter. They are generally nocturnal and spend the day in hollow logs, rock crevices, under brush piles, or in burrows.
Opossums have a pouch for their young. Marsupials are a fairly small class of animals that raise the babies in a pouch. Opossums are closely related to the Kangaroo and Koala. They are light gray in color and basically look like big rats. Opossums have five toes on each foot and a tail with no fur.
“Playing Possum” Isn’t Make Believe!
Perhaps the most intriguing characteristic is the opossum’s ability to play dead. When confronted by danger, opossums can either make a run for it, climb a tree, or feign death. They can growl, belch, bare its teeth, urinate, and defecate. When all else fails, they “play possum” and act as if they’re dead. The opossum sinks to the ground while its eyes glaze over, bares its teeth, and lolls its tongue to the side, successfully simulating death. No amount of prodding, poking, or shaking will revive the opossum from its catatonic state. The opossum is not pretending! The animal has no control over this — it is involuntary!
When in this state, opossums sometimes produce foul-smelling fluids from anal glands. The smell is often described as corpse-like! It really does appear as if the opossum is dead. Its teeth are visible, as if in a death grimace. Opossums create such a convincing portrayal of death, including a putrid odor, that dogs and other predators will abandon them for livelier prey, as most predators will not eat carrion— and may leave the opossum alone.
Opossums aren’t indestructible, but they do have some pretty hefty natural immunities. They do not harbor diseases normally found in dogs and cats, such as distemper, parvovirus, or feline hepatitis. Opossums are largely immune to rabies. Scientists believe that a body temperature too low to support the rabies virus is the reason. They are also immune to most forms of snake venom, including venom from cottonmouths, copperheads and rattlesnakes. This is because a protein in their blood binds to the toxins and neutralizes them. There are now research efforts to synthesize this protein to make anti-venom for humans.
Do not leave pet food or trash outdoors at night. This is always an invitation to dinner. Pick fruit and garden crops when ripe, and do not leave rotten fruit or crops on the ground. Eliminate brush piles and holes under concrete slabs — you will eliminate opossum hotels. Secure pet doors at night, as opossums occasionally enter homes through pet doors. Once inside, they can generally be coaxed outside with a broom. Opossums seldom stay in one area for more than a few nights, so fear of them “taking over” an area should not be a concern.
So if you have a little opossum friend you need relocated, give Apex a call today. Our technicians are skilled at trapping and relocating problem opossums and their babies.
If You Need Humane Opossum Trapping In Cordova TN, Call Us Today At 901-598-8555 Or Fill Out Our Contact Us Form Below