Anatomy, behavior, and removal options of opossums
Much like mice and rats, opossums (Didelphimorphia Didelphidae) are among the most successful vermin on earth, thanks largely to their unspecialized biology, flexible diet, and breeding habits. They can survive, and often thrive, in even the most diverse locations and climates.
As many people know, opossums are, in fact, marsupials, meaning that they carry their young in a pouch. Depending upon the species, opossums can range in size from large house cats to small mice. Most species are semi-arboreal omnivores, which, in practical terms, means that they’ll eat almost anything.
Opossums have remarkably well-developed immune systems, and many species exhibit partial or total immunity to the venom of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and other vipers. Interestingly, opossums are about eight times less likely than wild dogs to carry rabies, though the author does not necessarily recommend approaching wild opossum on the strength of this statistic alone!
They are generally solitary creatures, and are known to stay in one area as long as food and water are readily available. Primarily nocturnal, opossums prefer quiet, secure areas to sleep during the day, and will sometimes seek out ready-made burrows for a form of temporary shelter.
Perhaps the most notable behavior of the opossums, however, is its unique ability to play dead—or possum—as the old idiom goes. When an opossum is threatened or harmed, it will involuntarily mimic the appearance and smell of a corpse. When this hard-wired defense mechanism takes effect, its lips will be drawn back, saliva will foam from the mouth, the eyes close or roll back, and a foul-smelling liquid is secreted from the anal glands. Though this behavior is apparently effective against would-be predators, the animal is, for all intents and purposes, completely defenseless during this period, and can be poked, rolled over, and even carried away without eliciting a response. The opossum will typically regain consciousness within forty minutes, although the process can sometimes take up to four hours. In conjunction with their ability to play dead, adult opossums will growl deeply or hiss at a perceived threat.
Opossums can be found in most regions throughout North America, though are considered invasive species in Southern Ontario and British Colombia. They are considered pests because of their tendency to dig up gardens in search of berries and nuts, and, like raccoons, will almost inevitably root through outdoor garbage cans in the hopes of coming across discarded food. Likewise, opossums present a serious threat to household pets, as their mouthful of sharp teeth serve as formidable offensive or defensive weapons.
Tenacious as they are, opossums are not generally wary of traps and can easily be caught using a box, cage, or latch-style trap. In many places, relocating a captured opossum without a permit is illegal, which means that the wises course of action is to enlist the help of a pest control profession to remove the opossum in a human (and legal) way.
If opossums have made inroads into your lawn, call Cantu Pest Control at 972-885-3618 (Dallas and Fort Worth areas) or 713-999-3495 (Houston area) and schedule an appointment today with one of our friendly, experienced pest control experts.