Five things to know about the valuable, misunderstood (and interesting) opossum
Opossums aren’t the most attractive animals — they also can get snarly and hissy when confronted or surprised even though it’s an act, they’re generally docile — and they often wind up on the pest list when they rummage around in garbage cans or garages, or in yards.
North America's only native marsupials are interesting critters, however, and serve numerous useful purposes. Here’s a few:
More:Are possums dangerous? They can be, but they're also good for your backyard.
Opossums are meticulous about it, according to TreeHugger.com, and go about it much like cats. They lick their paws and wipe their faces, and also will clean their bodies from head to tail. They use their claws to comb their fur (and snare insects that might be caught there to eat).
Opossums are virtually immune to rabies and the bites of venomous snakes like rattlesnakes and water moccasins. According to Scientific American, researchers have isolated a sequence of 11 amino acids copied from an opossum protein that could be used to produce snakebite antivenom at a lower cost, which would be useful in developing countries where bites are common.
According to TreeHugger.com, research has found that opossums are better than rats, rabbits, cats and dogs in the ability to find food and remember where it is, and are better than rats and cats at finding their way through mazes.
It’s a real thing when opossums are threatened by predators, but according to the Farmer’s Almanac isn’t done consciously. It’s an involuntary reaction, like fainting, that renders the animal catatonic. It also can include the emission of foul-smelling stuff from their anal glands that can make them smell like they’re sick or even dead, for as long as four hours.
If you’re concerned about ticks getting on your pets, or spreading Lyme disease, it’s good to have some opossums around because to them, ticks are as tasty as candy. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, one opossum can devour 5,000 ticks in a single season.
This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Five things to know about opossums