I first saw the two on the northwest side of our building. Switching windows, I watched the opossum walk steadily around to the south side, with Mindy about 10 to 20 feet behind, sort of stalking, sort of just acting curious. I finally lost sight of the opossum around a pile of branches. Presumably, Mindy got too close as I saw her running away.
Enough. I’d better get on with what else I learned about opossums.
|Opossum dining in a |
trash can. (Multiple websites)
Breeding and Offspring
Opossum breeding season is generally between January and July, though it varies somewhat with geographic location. The gestation period is short, 12 to 13 days. Females (“jills” as opposed to “jacks”) may deliver 1 to 3 litters of 4 to over 20 “joeys,” 1 to 3 times a year; two litters of 4 to 9 is most common. Newborn joeys are about the size of honeybees.
|Orphaned baby opossums in dead mother’s |
pouch. (Photo from www.2ndchance.info/raisepossum.htm)
|Young opossums cling to their mother|
after leaving the pouch. (Multiple websites)
|Opossum threatening with|
all 50 teeth. (Multiple websites)
They can bite, of course, but if all else fails, they normally faint and play possum, an involuntary response that gives the appearance and odor of a sick or dead animal. They roll onto their side, become stiff, close their eyes or stare, and bare their teeth, tongue hanging out, as saliva foams around the mouth and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from anal glands. They may remain in this state for minutes to hours.
|Opossum playing possum.|
Opossums tend to be very clean, spending much of their time grooming like domestic cats. A 2014 research study that exposed several wild animals to Lyme-disease carrying ticks labeled opossums the winner at ridding the world of ticks. The opossums licked off and swallowed over 90% of the ticks.
Although there have been cases of opossums with rabies, it’s a rare occurrence. Their resistance to rabies is thought to be related to the opossum's low body temperature (94-97°F) and strong immune system.
Opossums are known to carry a variety of bacterial and viral diseases, such as equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, which mostly affects horses when they ingest feed or water contaminated with opossum feces.
Opossums should be left alone. They are not cut out to be pets.
If one remains in your area or keeps returning to it, try to eliminate the attraction, which can be challenging. Opossums scored better than cats, dogs, rats and rabbits on ability to remember. They tend to outcompete other creatures for food. Remove any food, keep doors and windows closed, and leave an outdoor light on.
|Logo of the Opossum Society|
of the United States.
If help or information is needed, contact a wildlife rehabilitator or the Opossum Society of the United States (see P.S.), whose members are dedicated to opossum rehabilitation and education.
Thanks for stopping by.
Opossum vs possum: writingexplained.org/opossum-vs-possum-difference
Selected background references:
Study of opossums’ ability to kill ticks: www.caryinstitute.org/newsroom/opossums-killers-ticks
Opossum Society of the United States: opossumsocietyus.org/