Possums are generally regarded as pests when folks find them lurking in their yard or near their homes in the middle of the night.
It turns out, though, that they’re really one of the most misunderstood creatures on our planet. Contrary to popular belief, having possums nearby can actually be beneficial! Sure, they can admittedly be pretty jarring to look at — especially when you shine a light at them and make their eyes take on a more terrifying reflection.
But you’d be surprised at how much credit they really deserve for helping out with other, much nastier pests. I also had no idea just how long they have been roaming around Earth!
Trust me, after reading all the fascinating facts about possums below, you’ll never look at the marsupials in the same way again.
1. They’re Not Aggressive
Even when confronted with a predator, they will use the infamous “playing possum” technique to appear dead and avoid an actual brawl.
They can stay zoned out for hours, emitting a foul odor in order to further keep any bad guys at bay — but they’ll never outright attack, even if they’re baring their teeth.
2. They Rarely Have Rabies
Unlike most other wild animals, possums are nearly completely immune to contracting rabies or passing it along.
According to Dr. Karen Becker, this is due to their natural body temperature being too low to maintain hosting the virus.
3. They Kill Thousands Of Ticks
According to stats reported by the National Wildlife Federation, a single possum can potentially eliminate 4,000 ticks in one week thanks to their extreme self-grooming methods (either crushing or consuming the ticks burrowing in their fur).
They also aren’t susceptible to Lyme disease and therefore can protect humans from contracting it, as they rid an area of the real pests.
4. They Won’t Destroy Your Lawn Or Property
Unlike other nocturnal animals creeping around neighborhoods, possums won’t destroy your lawn or property, and they don’t spray like skunks.
Dr. Karen Becker explains that for these reasons, if you happen to see one wander into your garage (a popular spot to see them pop up), simply leave a door open and remove any food that might have drawn them in. They’ll eventually mosey on out without making a fuss.
5. They’re True Survivors
They’ve been around longer than any other mammal. Possums are often called “living fossils” because they’ve been able to survive on our planet for millions of years — over 70 million, to be exact, which really shows their ability to overcome adversity.
6. They Help With Waste Management
They are not picky eaters. If it’s edible, they’ll eat it — including commonly dining on animals struck by vehicles on the road (bones and all), which scientists refer to as “carrion.”
This basically makes them nature’s most efficient waste-management team and cleanup crew.
7. They’re The Only Marsupials Indigenous To North America
You have to admit, it would be a shame if Australia were the only home to marsupials! Plus, it makes possums even more unique parts of our natural environment.
8. They Get Rid Of Garden Pests
They aren’t picky eaters when it comes to troublesome garden pests like slugs, beetles, and cockroaches, but they will leave the flowers or veggies you’re growing undisturbed.
9. They May Be The Key To Battling Venomous Snake Bites
The venom of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and other dangerous slithery snakes that might be hiding in your yard has no effect on possums.
Researchers have been looking into whether they can find the toxin-neutralizing strain in their blood, which could potentially be used to treat humans who have been struck by poisonous snakes.
10. They’re Actually Quite Smart
Possums tested with a higher intelligence than more domestic animals like rabbits, dogs, and cats — particularly when it came to finding good grub and remembering exactly where it was to go back for more.
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