Many people see opossums as dirty, scavenging rats rather than the cute creatures they are. Opossums are the only marsupial in North America and after you learn a little more about them you might think they are kind of neat. But first things first: is it opossum or possum? In 1608, Captain John Smith coined the word opossum from the word “opossum”, the Algonquin term meaning “white animal”. It is unclear how the “o” was dropped, but “possum” was seen in print as early as 1613. Possum remains the term that is used in many regions in the country. Male opossums are known as jacks, females are known as jills and the young are referred to as joeys. A group of opossums are called a passel.
Interesting Opossum Facts
1. Opossums have a natural immunity to rabies. Opossums are almost completely immune to rabies, in fact, they are eight times less likely to carry rabies than wild dogs.
2. Opossums are smart. Opossums have areas of intelligence that they excel in. They are great at remembering where food is. They are better at it than dogs, cats and rats, but they are not as good as humans. They are also faster than rats at making their way through a maze.
3. Omnivore Opossum Diet. Opossums will eat human food, dog food and cat food but their normal diet is made up of rodents, insects, birds, eggs, frogs, snails, slugs, plants, fruit and grains. They will even eat skeletal remains of rodents and roadkill due to their high need for calcium.
4. Opossums are Great at Pest Control. Opossums are great at pest control because of their diet. They are also great at keeping cockroaches and bats away as they compete for food with them.
5. Opossums have opposable thumbs. They are great climbers due to their opposable thumbs. Their thumbs are actually on their rear feet and are technically toes. Opossums and primates are the only mammals that have opposable toes.
6. Opossum tail facts. Their prehensile tails are adapted for wrapping and grasping. They can hang from their tails for short periods of time. They will use their tails to carry materials and many people consider the tail a fifth appendage.
7. Opossums have large pupils. You may think that opossums have large black eyes, but it’s just strongly dilated pupils with an iris around them. These huge pupils are most likely an adaptation to their nocturnal habits.
8. Opossum playing dead & other natural defenses. Opossums will run, belch, growl, urinate and defecate when they feel threatened. If these tactics don’t work, they will play dead. They will roll over, become stiff and close their eyes. They will even bare their teeth as saliva foams around their mouth. They will also emit a foul-smelling fluid from their glands. This state can last for as long as four hours and is an effective way to deter predators.
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While there may be a lot to admire about these critters, you don’t want to have them on your property. Opossums carry diseases such as leptospirosis, tularemia, tuberculosis, toxoplasmosis, relapsing fever, spotted fever, coccidiosis, trichomoniasis, and Chagas disease. They may also be infested with harmful fleas, ticks, lice and mites. Contact A Five Star Termite & Pest Control for all your pest control needs!