What Do Possums Eat?

Opossums are small mammals that primarily seek heat and humidity to build their nests. Therefore, it is less common to see them creeping around homes in North America. But in recent years, it has migrated more and more northward. So don’t be surprised if you see a dog rummaging through your trash can.

But what exactly do these little creatures eat? Possums are omnivores and eat anything that doesn’t take much effort to catch. It goes from invertebrates to amphibians, passing gastropods, molluscs and crustaceans, even fish, and small vertebrates. Don’t underestimate fruit, seeds, and the contents of trash cans near the house. It can even eat dead animals.

Is it dangerous or threatening to humans? How to keep them away? In this article, you will find all the answers to your questions about possums.

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Is it Possum or Opossum?

Possum_xandepontes, Pixabay

Before we get to the point of this article, let’s decide whether it’s better to call this animal “possum” or “opossum”. Well, both are accepted, but the scientific name for this marsupial is opossum; the term “possum”, however, is widely used in the United States.

Indeed, colloquially, English speakers use the word possum to refer colloquially to the Virginia opossum and other marsupial species of the Americas, which belong to the orders Didelphidae or Paucituberculata.

So… What Is Possum Exactly?

possom in the tree_Piqsels

Possum is a white mouse-like mammal the size of a cat. These animals reach a maximum length of 25 to 30 inches and weigh about 15 pounds at their adult size. Females, on the other hand, are slightly smaller.

It is a solitary and sometimes aggressive marsupial that occupies territory that varies with individual size. Nocturnal and spends the day in their nests, tree holes or abandoned burrows, or even a pile of leaves.

Legs of an acrobat

The hind legs have thumbs and look more like hands. The forelegs resemble legs. These characteristics make him a great climber but a poor runner.

A clumsy walker, it reaches a maximum speed of 13 km/h. In addition, its legs are short, which allows it to get into bushes and other hiding places quickly.

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The fingers, except for the thumb, are equipped with long, sharp claws. When climbing, the opossum sticks its claws into the bark of a tree and thereby strengthens its position.

Where Does Possum Come From?

possum eat_hirisflower, Pixabay

Dating back more than 55 million years, possums are prehistoric animals and once lived alongside dinosaurs. Originally from hot countries, he moved from South America to the northern part of the continent. Its name comes from the Native Americans, who called it “apasum”, which means white animal.

These are from a marsupial family, which means they have pockets to carry their babies. You must be familiar with the most popular marsupials in Australia:

  • kangaroo

  • koala

  • wallaby

  • Wombats

  • Tasmanian devil

Therefore, opossums are the only marsupials that live outside of Australasia, apart from the small family Coenolestidae which is found only in the Andes. The most famous possum is the Virginia opossum, common in parts of North and South America, from Canada to Argentina.

What does the diet consist of?

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Opossums are omnivores but mostly carnivores. The list of things he ate was endless; it will definitely take less time to list the foods he refuses to eat! But here’s a quick rundown of this little glutton’s favorite food:

  • Insect

  • frog

  • lizard

  • snake

  • Mouse

  • baby bird

  • young squirrel

  • Herbs

  • clover

  • Seed

  • Crazy

  • berries

In town, it eats vegetables from your garden and rummages in your trash cans.

If it finds a good food source in its territory, the opossum does not move more than five acres from the nest. On the other hand, if it wasn’t so, it traveled four times as large as its territory to obtain supplies.

Habitat, Cozy Little Nest

possum_Roy Guisinger_Pixabay

Opossums are lazy. Instead of building a burrow of its own, it settles in an abandoned underground den, by skunks or ground hogs, for example. He loves forests and swamps; he then covered the gallery with leaves and twigs to make his new home more comfortable, where he spent most of his time sleeping.

In urban areas, he takes shelter under the balcony of the house, in the garage, or even in the gutter. If you find this animal under your porch, don’t worry. Immediately contact a specialist who will help you return your opossum to a habitat that is more suited to its needs.

What is the Possum’s Unique Defense Strategy?

possum_Lea Smith_Pixabay

When threatened, the possum adopts an unusual defense strategy: it pretends to be dead.

But this defense does not end there. Not only was he lying on his side, his body was stiff and round and his tongue was sticking out, but he was also drooling, defecating, and emitting a foul-smelling green substance. Then, believing dealing with the carcass in a state of advanced decay, the predator abandons its prey; the possum would then immediately regain its vitality. Thus, although it can often escape from wolves, coyotes, and other carnivores, it remains prey to many raptors, both diurnal and nocturnal.

Is It a Dangerous Species?

possum_B Hunt_Pixabay

Opossums are not dangerous animals. However, as with other wild animals, it is important not to try to approach or feed them to avoid aggressive behavior towards humans. When he feels threatened, he may cry or growl while baring his teeth.

Does It Carry Disease, Like Rabies?

Opossums are also susceptible to disease like other mammals, including rabies, but the risk is minimal, and they are rarely infected.

5 Interesting Facts About Possum

man holding possum_videorevive, Pixabay

1. He pretends to be dead when a predator approaches him. It can even fake a bad smell and reduce its heart rate for up to 6 hours!

2. Quite peaceful and not inclined to attack. However, it is not advisable to approach him, as he has small sharp teeth, and he may want to bite you if he feels threatened.

3. It has a diverse diet and is often found in the yards of people who feed other animals.

4. Very rarely carry rabies. Although it carries several parasites of its own, the Virginia opossum rarely has the rabies virus.

5. Their diet and habitat is very similar to that of a raccoon. Omnivorous and opportunistic, both species feed on a wide variety of plant and animal matter. They are also used to rummaging through human trash cans. However, clashes between them appear to be limited due to differences in their food preferences and the time they forage for food.

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How to Keep Possums away?

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Here are some tips for keeping possums (and other wild creatures) roaming your home:

  • Use a trash can with an airtight seal.

  • Keep the exterior of your home clean and tidy.

  • Avoid offering protection to wild animals.

  • Keep dog or cat food inside.

  • Seal off areas where it can hide.

  • Don’t feed him.

  • Call a pest control specialist who will come and catch it, and replace it in its natural habitat.

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Final Thoughts

While possums may seem a little scary when you come face-to-face with one of these critters at night, gobble up the leftovers in your trash can. However, they will not harm you, as they are simply trying to find more food for their highly varied diet. It is best, in this case, to contact a pest control specialist. And whatever you do, don’t feed them – they’re not particularly picky when it comes to food, so you might get a visit every night if you start feeding them.

  • You may also want to read: Do Possums Eat Chicken? How to Protect Your Flock

Featured Image Credit: daynaw3990, Pixabay