Due to several protests over our recent icky opossum posting, the Editor has decided to issue the following clarifications. Specifically, we wish to address the concerns of a friend who shall remained nameless. Our friend, who shall remained nameless, had apparently laid down some new sod in her back yard. She then had to do battle with not one, but SEVEN, opossums who had the misfortune of wanting some fresh grub, i.e., snails and slugs, and had peeled back the sod to get to the grub underneath. To her credit, our friend, who shall remained nameless, relocated these seven unfortunate possums seven different times to seven different locations far far away from her sod.
While we are not advocating adopting an opossum as a household pet (see #1 below), trapping and relocating them is really not very necessary.
1) Opossums are wild animals. Wild animals belong out in the wild. Opossums are also solitary animals. Cuddling is not a top priority for them. There have been many accounts of people rescuing and adopting them as household pets. However, please note that they are not dogs or cats, and generally do not make good “pets”. They are also nocturnal, and unless you keep vampirish hours, it is unlikely that you will be awake enough to enjoy their presence.
2) An opossum is a gardener’s best friend. Possums’ favorite delicacies are snails and slugs, which could easily devour all your vegetables in one night. They also eat insects, cockroaches!!!!, roof rats, and even snakes. They will also clear out carrion and any over-ripe fruit that you haven’t gotten to yet.
3) When trapped or threatened, they may emit a foul-smelling odor. This is part of their defense mechanism. This may or may not accompany the “playing possum” to get you to leave it alone. The foul-smelling odor is mild compared to, say, a skunk. Most people think skunks are cute. This is probably due to the Pepé Le Pew cartoon series in which a French skunk foolishly chased after a poor terrified house cat. Several opossum cartoon characters (Pogo, Banjo, Pistol Packin’) had been in circulation, however, none had ever made it “big” to stardom as Pepé the skunk.
4) Opossums have poor hearing and eyesight, and rely mostly on their keen sense of smell. As most other mammals, they are also lazy. They would much prefer a bowl of kitty krunchies to having to dig for slugs. (Actually, they don’t really dig.) If you prefer that they leave your garden alone, a small bowl of cat/dog food placed near your preferred exit would attract them and send them on their way after feasting.
5) They are not territorial, but they do have a territory. If you decide to vacate opossums elsewhere, keep in mind that other predators will move in. These include raccoons, skunks, and rats…
The National Opossum Society has a great website that has more information on these fascinating animals. The Opossum Society of the United States is also a great website. Note that the “Virginia” opossum isn’t really about possums in Virginia…that’s just what the American opossum is called.