The misunderstood opossum

Baby opossum being rehabbed by Jessica Coleman in Edna.

By Jessica Coleman 
Staff Writer
    In wildlife rescue, I see a lot of critters. In my home right now, I have a white wing dove, a grackle, a box turtle, some baby squirrels, two adult opossums and a whole bunch of baby opossums. 
    At one point this summer I had over 20 opossums.
    I adore them all, but I especially adore the opossums. I’ve always kind of liked the critters that other people find creepy – I have pet rats and grew up with pythons – but my beloved opossums are so misunderstood. 
    They’re fascinating creatures, and North America’s only marsupial. They’re useful, especially if you don’t like ticks, which they eat (helping to prevent lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses). They will also grub out on the bugs in your yard. You haven’t seen happiness until you’ve given an opossum a June bug. 
    They’re also immune to most snake venom, so they eat those too. They have a natural near-immunity to rabies because of their relatively low body temperature.
    They pass out when they’re scared, for crying out loud. This is not a fierce animal. It’s an animal that learned how to bluff.
    I think that because some people decided they’re ugly somewhere along the line, that we attribute all these terrible things to them and for some reason we consider it ok to kill them, just for... I don’t know, being unattractive?
    I get it. When they do the mouth-open-hissy thing, it isn’t cute (Well, I think its cute, but I think my wardrobe has helped us establish I have questionable taste in what is cute or not. I am ok with this). What they are is useful, important to our ecosystem, and mostly harmless.
    Yes, it is true that if your chickens aren’t secured, an opossum will eat them. So will a raccoon, or a neighbor’s dog for that matter. It isn’t an animal’s responsibility to not eat. It is our responsibility as pet and livestock owners to secure them.
     I have opossums in my yard and I have yet to lose a chicken to them, because I have a cage that is “possum-proof”. I made it raccoon-proof just for good measure.
    I guess what I am getting at is that we, humans, moved into the homes of these animals, and now we call them “pests.” And yes, there are times they can be (ask any horse owner how they feel about opossums and they’ll give you some legitimate concerns about EPM). 
    However, there are definitely humane ways to get them out of spaces where they can be harmful. “Shoot it because it inconveniences me” is something I’ll never understand about us humans.  They aren’t difficult to trap and relocate if they’re causing a real problem, but I’d ask you to rethink what constitutes “a real problem.” 
    Maybe “I think it’s ugly” isn’t one.



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