Opossums are unique creatures that are native to North America. With their hairless, prehensile tail and tendency to play dead when threatened, they have become a familiar sight in many parts of the continent. While they are often considered pests, opossums can also provide valuable benefits to the environment. In this article, we will explore the biology of opossums, their habitat and behavior, indicators of their presence, and how to prevent opossum problems.

Biology of Opossums

Opossums are marsupials and are the only marsupial found in North America. They are omnivores and their diet includes insects, fruits, vegetables, and small animals such as rodents and birds. Opossums have a unique defense mechanism: when threatened, they will “play dead” by falling over and lying motionless. This behavior is known as thanatosis and is thought to discourage predators from attacking.

Opossums have a prehensile tail, which means they can use it to grip branches and other objects. They are also the only North American mammal with opposable thumbs on their hind feet, which allows them to grasp objects with great dexterity.

Habitat and Behavior of Opossums

Opossums can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, grasslands, and urban areas. They are primarily nocturnal animals, which means they are most active at night. Opossums are solitary animals and prefer to live alone, although they may share a den in the winter to conserve heat.

Opossums are not aggressive animals and will usually flee when confronted. However, they may hiss, growl, or bare their teeth when they feel threatened. If cornered, they may also “play dead” as a last resort.

Indicators of Opossum Presence

The most obvious indicator of opossum presence is their distinctive tracks, which have five toes on both the front and hind feet. Other indicators of opossum activity include damage to gardens or crops, as opossums will eat fruits and vegetables. Opossums may also take up residence in attics, garages, or other structures, and you may hear scratching or rustling noises coming from these areas.

Preventing Opossum Problems

To prevent opossum problems, it’s important to eliminate sources of food and shelter that may attract them to your property. This includes securing garbage cans and compost bins, keeping pet food indoors, and sealing up any holes or gaps in your home’s exterior. Opossums are also attracted to the scent of food, so it’s important to clean up spilled food and birdseed regularly.

If you have an opossum living on your property, it’s important to avoid contact with it. Opossums can carry diseases such as rabies, so it’s best to keep your distance. Instead, contact a professional wildlife removal company to safely remove the opossum from your property.


Opossums are unique creatures that provide valuable benefits to the environment. While they can be considered pests, they can also help control insect populations and contribute to biodiversity. By understanding the biology and behavior of opossums and taking steps to prevent problems, you can coexist with these creatures in a safe and respectful manner.


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