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Opossums are misunderstood, but beneficial to humans

The poor opossum really does deserve our pity. This critter, officially known as the Virginia opossum, has very little going for it other than just about everyone would agree that it is ugly. And and when it comes to roadkill, it ranks right up there with on the leader board with squirrels and turtles in these parts.

Here are nine facts about the opossum, so the next time you encounter one your first reaction won't be to scream but to smile.

Opossums may seem scary, but are relatively harmless, unless you attempt to handle them.

1-Did you know?

The Virginia opossum is North America’s only marsupial

2-These critters are old!

A University of Florida researcher traces the existence of opossums as far back as the extinction of dinosaurs!

3-They play a vital role in our ecosystem

With global warming, ticks and tick-borne diseases are on the rise. Scientists have discovered that a single opossum can consume as many as 5,000 ticks in a season! Those aren’t the only pests that opossums eat; they are also quite fond of slugs, snails, roaches, spiders, rats, mice, and snakes. 

4-Say what?

Most people are unaware that opossums are immune to snake venom. Scientists are studying the protein that opossums have that neutralizes these toxins to help develop better treatments for humans.

Virginia opossums are North America’s only marsupial and they play a vital role in the ecosystem.

5-You don't have to sweat rabies

Due to their low body temperature and amazing immune system, rabies virus infection has very rarely been documented in wild opossums.

6-A tooth fairy's worst nightmare

Opossums will often respond to perceived threats by baring their teeth. Since they have more teeth than any other North American land mammal, 50 to be exact, they can look scary, but are rarely aggressive and will not bite unless you attempt to handle them. 

7-Worst enemy? Car wrecks vs. cats and dogs

Your domestic dog or cat is a far bigger threat to an opossum than the opossum is to them. The second most common trauma presentation (after car strikes) for opossums is attacks from these domestic predators. 

8-Their newborns are called 'Joeys'

When it comes to being a mother, opossums are some of Nature’s best. They will carry up to 13 babies (or joeys) in their pouch (or marsupium) for more than three months. If you find a female opossum that has been killed, it may have babies still alive in its pouch which should be taken to a wildlife center, to receive the care their mother can no longer provide.

9-Celebrating independence

When the babies are old enough, they will emerge and ride on Mom’s back. As they continue to grow, they will fall off, usually one or two at a time. At that point, the young opossum is on its own, even though it may look quite small. Many healthy young opossums are abducted from the wild by well intentioned humans when they are old enough to fend for themselves.



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