The opossum is the only pouched animal (marsupial) native to North America. These are nocturnal species that are primarily active at night. Opossums are excellent climbers and capable swimmers, allowing them to avoid predators. These nocturnal animals are famous for faking death, which is another way to outwit their enemies.
Opossums are good in your yard as they feed on small rodents, insects, and pests. Opossums will also feed on dangerous snakes and scorpions, keeping you and your pets safe. They will also feed on fruit and vegetables that have dropped to the ground keeping your yard tidy.
The fur of an opossum is grayish-white and covers the entire body except for the ears and tail. The average weight is between nine and thirteen pounds, and the body length is between 24 to 40 inches. Opossums are about the size of a house cat and have a prehensile tail for grasping and hanging.
In addition, opossums are insectivores and omnivores, meaning they have a varied diet of worms, insects, nuts, fruits, and dead animals. These animals also prey on small voles, rodents, moles, and shrews. Opossums will feed at garbage cans, compost piles, and bird feeders in your yard. Read on!
What are the Benefits of Opossums?
Although North America’s opossums are unattractive due to their behavior and nocturnal lifestyle, they benefit your yard. Opossums are among a few wildlife species that are helpful for your yard because they play a crucial role in maintaining a clean and natural environment.
Because opossums prey on small rodents, insects, and other pests, they are valuable for your garden or yard. Opossums are omnivores, meaning they eat a wide range of food items, including slugs, beetles, and snails that damage plants in your garden.
In addition, opossums consume plants, including dropped vegetables and fruits. Remember, dropped veggies and fruits have microorganisms that can pose risks to human health. Therefore, opossums’ presence in your yard is very beneficial in reducing the risk of plant-borne microorganisms.
Moreover, opossums can hunt and kill mice, rats, and even poisonous snakes in your garden or yard, making your property and providing substantial protection against deadly animals. Because opossums are scavengers, they eat dead animals and carcasses, ensuring your garden is clean and well-maintained. So, these animals are environmentally friendly and natural cleaners for your property.
Another benefit of having opossums in your property, garden, or yard is that they don’t spread diseases. Their immune systems have developed natural defense mechanisms to fight against microorganisms that can spread rabies. Opossums also have strengthened immune systems to mitigate the effects of scorpion stings and bees’ toxins.
What are the Downsides of Opossums?
Although opossums have many advantages in your yard, they also have some downsides. For example, the presence of these nocturnal animals in your yard threatens your pets, such as dogs and cats, because they will make efforts to steal and consume your pets’ food. That’s why avoiding leaving your pets’ food outdoors is crucial.
Opossums have fleas, which will drop flea eggs and larvae in your garden and yard. However, fleas are not dangerous for humans and animals. These opportunistic animals will find ways to dwell in your home, garden, garage, and other areas. Opossums carry equine protozoal myeloencephalitis that can cause neuronal damage in some animals, including horses.
How to Attract Opossums to Your Yard?
If you want to protect your garden or yard from pests, such as rats, mice, rodents, snakes, and other pets, you can use different ways to attract opossums to your yard. Experts recommend planting shrubs whose limbs and foliage hang low to the ground. The purpose is to provide coverage and room for these nocturnal animals to maneuver underneath them.
Besides, planting trees, vines, and bushes next to your property’s fence will allow these animals to climb down in the yard and prey on insects, rats, and other pets. Once trees in your yard mature, make sure you allow a few branches with leaves to hand down upon the fence, which will serve as a highway for opossums, allowing them to travel from one yard to another at night.
If you have a cement yard, ensure to have potted plants with trellises to allow opossums to climb down into your yard. Large potted plants in your yard are also places for opossums to hide during the day and come out at night to explore your yard and look for rats and rodents. Some property owners have large acreage, allowing opossums to use small ravines and tall grass to move around your yard and search for food.
Moreover, plant a series of bush clumps and ensure a distance of 15 to 20 feet between them so that opossums can use them for travel without exposing themselves to humans and other animals. It is crucial to focus on food sources to attract opossums.
For instance, you can plant vegetables, fruits, and flowers in your garden to attract snails, insects, and slugs. It is an excellent way to attract opossums because they enjoy eating snails, slugs, and insects. Besides, these nocturnal animals also love to consume overripe, fallen fruits on the ground.
Opossums are a natural part of the local ecosystem and environment. The primary reason opossums dwell in suburban neighborhoods in the U.S are waste management practices of humans. The conditions and practices in local communities are the primary reasons these nocturnal animals flourish in urban areas.
While opossums offer many benefits in maintaining your yard and protection against harmful animals and pests, they can also pose some threats. That’s why it is essential to secure all trash can lids and areas where you store pets’ foods and bird seeds.
Don’t leave your cat or dog food out overnight. Clean up spilled birdseed in your yard, especially around feeders. Seal any holes and openings in your chimneys, attics, and crawlspaces to prevent them from entering your indoor space.
Make sure no opossums are trapped inside holes or gaps before you seal them. Overall, opossums are beneficial for maintaining your yard’s cleanliness and environment.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.