Opossums (uh-possums) have gotten a bad rap and it’s all because of their looks. They are neither cuddly cute enough nor frighteningly creepy enough to generate the right emoji responses. So you won’t see any “aw” inspired glam shots of these long nosed, bare tailed, giant rat looking animals gracing the covers of Sierra Club magazines or World Wild Life Fund calendars. But, they should. Because once you get to know these non-confrontational nocturnal omnivores (who are not related to rodents), you realize they are worthy of super cool, super hero, and super neighbor status.
Super Cool: Opossums have out lived the dinosaurs by 65 million years
- They are ancient animals that existed 70 million years ago and roamed the earth at the time of the dinosaurs.
- The Virginia Opossum is North America’s only native marsupial (mammal with a “pouch” for caring for its young).
- They have 50 teeth – more teeth than any other North American land mammal.
- They play “possum” (fake their death for up to 6 hours) — an involuntary reaction in situations of high stress or extreme fear.
- They have opposable, clawless toes on their rear limbs (Primates and opossums are the only mammals with opposable first toes.)
Super Heros: Opossums have poison immunity powers — due to a protein in their blood they can neutralize a wide variety of poisons.
- They are immune to bee, wasp, and scorpion stings.
- They are immune to snake venoms (except coral snakes).
- They are effectively immune to rabies.
Super Neighbors: Opossums are fastidious groomers and nightly sanitation workers.
- They eat ticks that can spread disease — up to 5,000 ticks each, per season. Read A Horror of Ticks (part I) & (part II).
- They eat pests that can cause damage — cockroachs, crickets, snails, snakes, birds, mice, rats, moles, and other small animals.
- They eat rotting fruit and roadkill that can draw other insects and wildlife including wolfs, coyotes, and rodents.
Opossums have a short life span of only 1-4 years, but due to few defenses against predators and man-made hazards they are only averaging 1-2 years. Please support your local Opossums by being a good human neighbor.