Maybe you find Opossums lovable, or maybe their pointy ears and toothy smirks churn your stomach. Seeing one in your backyard freaks out a lot of people who aren’t used to the sight of these funny, misunderstood marsupials, either way, you’ll never need to worry about opossums, beneath that rat-like exterior, hissing, Opossums are actually great to have around. These small, nomadic marsupials are perfectly innocuous.

They’re as big as a housecat, but don’t quite look the part. Opossums look a whole lot more like rats, even though they’re on the other side of the mammal family tree as Marsupials. But still, with their ghoulish looks and jagged teeth, they can be quite frightening – especially for kids.

Even though they look like rodents, opossums are actually marsupials, just like kangaroos and platypuses. Unfortunately, because of their creepy appearance, people don’t like having them around. But don’t be so quick to kick them out – or worse, euthanize them. These animals are often misunderstood and can actually be beneficial for your property.

Opossums are famous for their ability to “play dead.” This is such a common trick that the American Museum of Natural History even wrote a Twitter post about it, claiming that it’s in the running for an Oscar. When threatened, an opossum will fall on its side, curl its body, and sometimes even drool or excrete feces in an attempt to deter predators.

But don’t be fooled, opossums don’t actually choose to play dead. It’s an automatic response, much like vomiting after eating something bad. When an opossum “dies,” it falls to the ground with its teeth showing and its body stiffened from rigor mortis. The animal even emits a foul odor from glands near its anus.

Despite their frightening appearance, opossums are more afraid of humans than we are of them. That’s why they play dead – as a defense mechanism. In fact, they’re less dangerous than a loose dog in most cases.

Believe it or not, opossums can be a great addition to your yard. They eat all sorts of nasty pests that you’d normally have to pay someone to remove. If you’ve got a rat, roach, cricket, or even a snake problem, let the opossum take care of it for you – free of charge! But that’s not all – opossums also love to eat overripe fruit. If you have a fruit tree and don’t collect all the fruit during picking season, the opossum can clean up the rest for you. You could even feed them any fruit that’s gone bad in your pantry.

So the next time you see an opossum wandering around your yard, don’t be so quick to shoo it away. These animals can do a lot of good by ridding your yard of pests and cleaning up overripe fruit. Even though they might not be the prettiest creatures, they’re definitely worth having around.

Sources: AWM, Worldatlas, HumaneSociety




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