What are Opossums?
Opossums are the only marsupial found in North America. They live in many parts of the United States except for the Rockies, western plains and parts of the northern region. They usually live alone and are only active at night. Though a relative of the kangaroo, opossums are much slower and produce a nauseating smell when threatened. These wild animals can survive in a wide range of conditions and locations by virtue of their flexible diets and reproductive habits. If you are dealing with an infestation, opossum removal should be handled by a PMi Certified Wildlife Specialist.
- Color: White or gray
- Legs: 4
- Shape: Long and pointed face with round, hairless ears and rat-like tail
- Size: Up to 40 inches in length, generally about the size of a house cat
- Antennae: No
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What Do Opossums Look Like?
They can grow up to 40 inches in length, about the size of a house cat. Their bodies are covered in white or grayish hair, and they have a long, pointed face with round, hairless ears and a rat-like tail. Additionally, females have a pouch on their stomach for holding newborns.
Opossum vs. Possum
Although the average person may use the terms “opossum” and “possum” interchangeably, they are different. An opossum is a white and gray marsupial that is found primarily in North America. In contrast, a possum is the name used to describe a marsupial found in Australia, New Zealand and China that is similar in appearance to an opossum. Their name derives from the term “opossum.”
In order to prevent these marsupials from taking up shelter in a residence, homeowners should store trash in sealed receptacles with animal-proof lids, preferably in a locked shed or outhouse. It’s good practice to bring pet food dishes inside at night to avoid attracting opossums and another nuisance wildlife. Homeowners should also remove other obvious sources of food and shelter from the property, such as fallen berries and fruits, as well as woodpiles and logs. On a nice day, Inspect the outside of the home for holes and access points, such as broken vent covers.
If you suspect an infestation in your home, contact a PMi Licensed Pest Professional to conduct an inspection and work with you to develop a treatment plan. Opossum removal techniques such as traps and fencing may be used. PMi can also provide more helpful opossum facts that can help prevent future infestations.
These marsupials will seek out existing structures such as garages, hollow logs, tree cavities, brush piles or burrows of other animals when looking for a home. They prefer environments near streams or swamps but can also live in diverse areas, ranging from arid to moist, wooded to open fields. They prefer a home with proximity to food and water.
They will sometimes den in attics and garages where they may construct a messy nest. They can also tear ductwork or insulation if they gain access to the interior of a household. When digging for food, they can also damage lawns. In fact, they can destroy poultry, game birds and their nests. When startled, they can bare their sharp teeth and hiss. In rare cases, they may bite if they feel threatened.
Although the lifestyle habits make them seem like prime hosts for rabies, they rarely contract the disease and are even less likely to transmit it. However, they can carry a slew of other diseases, such as leptospirosis, tularemia and tuberculosis to name a few. They may also become infested with fleas and mites, especially in urban areas.
When threatened or harmed, they have been known to “play possum” by acting like a dead animal, which may cause an onlooker to think that the opossum is suffering from rabies. They do so by drawing back their lips, baring their teeth, causing saliva to foam around their mouth, and secreting a foul-smelling liquid from their anal glands. Rather than a sign of rabies, this act is an opossum’s natural defense mechanism.
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