Despite being subjected to some hilarious memes, opossums are not very liked animals among humans. People often view them as pests, which keep breaking into their trash cans for a quick snack and hisses at them when caught red-handed. According to a representative for the Opossum Awareness & Advocacy this perception is changing, yet there are still some instances of violent behavior towards these animals due to misinformation. “Different people view opossums in different ways and the perception is changing, but historically many believed opossums were giant rodents that spread rabies, due to the fact they do like a bit like rats (especially their tails). Historically people would kill them as pests and also eat them. There are several areas where people still do kill them and see them as pests. Some people see them as pests due to the fact that opossums seek warmth in the colder months and can make homes in basements and attics. Many horse owners hate opossums due to the fact that they are capable of carrying a virus that can kill horses. Not all opossums carry this virus. They need to contract it by eating another creature that has the virus. They spread the virus to horses by their urine or excrement (if the horse eats food/grass contaminated by the infected opossum urine/poop then they can become sick and it’s sometimes deadly). So there are some horse owners who kill opossums on sight. Others do not and just take precautions to keep opossums away from anything their horses might eat,” they said.
Clearly, there’s probably no need to call animal control (or worse) each time a gang of these critters visits your garden. In fact, they do a lot more good than you probably think. Opossums are the unsung heroes who are responsible for silently reducing Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, not only in other animals but also in humans. How do they do that? Well, it turns out their favorite snack is not a leftover meal from your garbage bin. They prefer to eat ticks and it is estimated that they eat 5000 of them per season.
Recently, a trail camera captured a heartwarming moment between an opossum and a deer
Recently, Vermont Wildlife Coalition shared a heartwarming snap proving how helpful opossums are at eradicating ticks. Captured by a trail camera, the photo shows an opossum eating ticks directly off of a deer’s face. The photo, which quickly went viral, perfectly demonstrates a symbiotic relationship between two different species, who learned to co-exist and help each other out.
Image credits: ramendan
It also highlights that opossums are tasked with something very important — they are nature’s ‘cleaners’. Not only do these nocturnal animals combat ticks, but they also eradicate pests such as mice (which also spread infectious diseases such as Lyme), snakes, slugs and garden pests. And if you ever thought that they are dirty and gross, you couldn’t be more wrong. These critters groom and clean themselves as much as cats do. Also, they usually cannot contract or spread rabies due to their very low body temperature.
Image credits: James Gates
While they try their best to look intimidating, they are quite easily frightened. They tend to play dead, hiss and even faint when they’re scared. They are also quite adorable. However, being wild creatures, they often carry fleas, parasites, and even diseases. So it’s best to leave them alone if you get a chance to encounter them. With that in mind, it’s best advised not to keep them as pets, as it is even illegal in many states to do so.
Image credits: Tony Alter
The representative sums up all of the positive sides of opossums:
“A. They eat thousands of ticks each season. Seasons vary depending on where one lives. In winter when ticks are dormant in the north where it is very cold, opossums would not be killing them .
B. It’s almost impossible for opossums to contract rabies due to their lower than normal blood/body temperature.
C. Opossum is virtually impervious to poisonous snake bites and also can kill those snakes, making the world a bit safer of poisonous snakes. Scientists have also used opossum blood to create injections to save people after they have been bitten by poisonous snakes.
D. Opossum kills more than just harmful ticks and snakes, they are essentially nature’s pest control and eat mice, slugs and other things we humans consider pests.
E. They are the USA and Canada’s only marsupial.
F. They are cute
G. It’s cool to see a mother opossum carrying her babies around on her back.”
Image credits: born1945
The Opossum Awareness & Advocacy representative has told us that humans are causing these animals great harm by ruining their natural habitat and being misinformed about them. “People can help them by educating themselves and having the real facts on opossums (the good and the bad) and then telling their friends and family and towns about them. In my view, opossums are probably the most misunderstood and underrated animal in the USA. They deserve a public apology by many people and organizations that have harmed and maligned them in the past,” they said.
If you’d like to support the cause of helping opossums feel free to buy merchandise from the Opossum Awareness & Advocacy store.
Image credits: Kathy
Speaking of opossums’ favorite snack, ticks are often encountered in a humid, wooded, bushy environment where they patiently wait for unsuspecting hosts such as mice, deer and other mammals including humans. These blood-sucking insects are probably the only transmitters of Lyme disease. Each year, around 14,000 humans contract Lyme disease in the US. The first symptoms of this disease often resemble the flu and are sometimes followed by a slowly-spreading bull’s-eye-shaped rash where the tick attached. While the disease is rarely fatal, it can cause such debilitating health problems as facial paralysis, heart palpitations, arthritis, severe headaches, and neurological disorders.