Pest Focus: Playing Possum

oppossumOpossums are a common pest in Florida. With several adaptations and a mean personality, these pests can be difficult to persuade to live somewhere else. They are North America’s only marsupial, which means that opossum babies live in their mother’s pouch. Opossums are white or gray with long, pointed faces, and bodies about the size of a house cat. Opossums’ 50 teeth number more than any other North American mammal, and their canine fangs are very visible. They can climb and are good swimmers; opossums prefer to amble about on the ground.

Opossums have a remarkably robust immune system, and show partial or total immunity to the venom of rattlesnakes and cottonmouths. Opossums are about eight times less likely to carry rabies than wild dogs, and about one in eight hundred opossums are infected with this virus.

When threatened or harmed, they will “play possum”, mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal. This physiological response is involuntary (like fainting), rather than a conscious act. In the case of baby opossums, however, the brain does not always react this way at the appropriate moment, and therefore they often fail to “play dead” when threatened. When an opossum is “playing possum”, the animal’s lips are drawn back, the teeth are bared, saliva foams around the mouth, the eyes close or half-close, and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from the anal glands. The stiff, curled form can be prodded, turned over, and even carried away without reaction. The animal will typically regain consciousness after a period of between 40 minutes and 4 hours, a process that begins with slight twitching of the ears.

Females will have two or three litters each year, each litter has up to 14 young. Opossum babies are born after only 11 to 14 days of gestation. At birth, newborn opossums are the size of a Honey Bee, so tiny that an entire litter, consisting of up to 14 babies, can fit into a single tablespoon. They are so undeveloped that it’s impossible for them to survive outside the mother. They are strong enough to across the mother’s belly, into her marsupium (pouch), they do this by instinct. Once inside the pouch, the babies find a teat, attach themselves to it very securely, and during the next two months ride in the mother’s pouch continuing their development. Opossum pups find nourishment, warmth, and safety in the pouch. When closed, it is so well sealed that if the female swims, the pups remain dry.

Opossums are usually solitary and nomadic, staying in one area as long as food and water are easily available. Some families will group together in ready-made burrows or even under houses. As nocturnal animals, they favor dark, secure areas. These areas may be below ground or above. Opossums will den nearly anywhere that is dry, sheltered, and safe. Den sites include burrows dug by other mammals, rock crevices, hollow stumps, logs and trees, woodpiles, and spaces in or under buildings. Opossum can be found living in your attic; it may also be looking for food. Opossum food sources are, Fruits, pet food containers grains and insects. Opossums are omnivorous, eating both plants and animals; they will also throw garbage around from your cans in search of food. Opossums enjoy grubs, and will tear apart sod to find them.

Are you having problems with opossum’s in your home or property? Please contact Swatter Pest Solutions, We ensure that your service is handled correctly and efficiently. We also take the time to explain the process and answer any questions you may have before finally getting rid of your unwanted guests.

Comments are closed.