Benefits of Opossums

It is sad that the only marsupial native to North America, the Virginia opossum, has a bad reputation.  Often seen as nothing but oversized pests, they have become known for being disruptive throughout the United States.  Indeed, they are certainly opportunistic creatures.  However, they are also passive, and actually knock over trash a lot less than other pests, for example, raccoons.  Furthermore, these fluffy forest-dwelling creatures offer many benefits to us, both ecologically and practically.  Below are a few ways in which opossums are beneficial to our lives.

Opossums help stop Lyme Disease

Opossums possess the invaluable double salvo of being one of nature’s best vacuum cleaners as well as one of nature’s best groomers.  Their long, protruding snouts snatch up small insects at a frightening pace, plus aid removal if a stray tick manages to get hold of their skin.  Scientists estimate an opossum can eradicate 5,000 ticks in a single season, roughly 95% of all ticks found in the average backyard.  For pet owners, this has the potential to save them countless hours and dollars, as they can exercise their pet in the backyard without the risk of ticks and Lyme disease.

Opossums are almost comically harmless

Opossums take the coward’s approach whenever they get threatened: they play dead and do so remarkably well.  Not only do they freeze, but they slow down their vital organs until they are in a virtually catatonic state!  This may be a bit of an alarming sight for those who are not used to seeing virtually dead marsupials on the ground, but there is nothing to worry about.  This is a natural instinct for opossums they cannot control, and they recover in a matter of hours.  On a serious note, this means any animal of a considerable size should not be threatened by the opossum, meaning pet owners can exercise their dogs without fear of injury.

Opossums are godsends for gardeners

If you have any form of plant growing in your backyard that you care about, opossums can aid its survival.  They can quell the need for potentially damaging pesticides to be sprayed on the plant in an attempt to make it slug-free, as they provide a perfectly natural alternative.  Opossums diet on small insects, slugs and snails, and would be perfectly happy to aid you in your pest-removal needs. 

Opossums are also invaluable when it comes to growing fruit.  One of the most irksome parts of fruit growing is the constant need to check the soil for rotten or fermented fruit that has fallen off.  If left unattended, this can damage the soil and stunt growth and is also simply a nuisance for those tending the soil.  Opossums snack on rotten fruit, meaning once again they can provide a mutually beneficial service.

Opossums eat venomous snakes

There are 21 venomous snake species in the United States. Not only do they have the potential to kill pets and severely injure humans, snakes are also known to invoke an irrational fear in many people.  The sheer thought of having a venomous snake in your proximity is enough to cause anxiety, and it sometimes leads to a reluctance to let children play outside unattended.  These fears can be dramatically alleviated if you have an opossum native to your backyard.  An evolutionary quirk of the opossum means it is entirely immune to snake venom, transforming the snake from being a terrifying assailant to, in their eyes, a nutritional meal.  Therefore, knowing that an opossum frequents your backyard should help people to ease their nerves and enjoy the great outdoors.

Opossums are nature’s cleaners

There is no sight worse when driving down the road than roadkill.  Not only is it unpleasant to look at, it often attracts flies and other pests, plus increases the risk of car accidents, as vehicles often have to swerve to get out of the way.  As omnivores, opossums feast on roadkill.  This helps to ensure that roads are safer for drivers, as well as reduces the number of breeding grounds for small insects, which are a nuisance in other scenarios.

Opossums hardly ever have rabies

Opossums have unusually low body temperatures, providing a hostile environment for rabies.  That means that in proportion to other mammals native to urban neighborhoods, there is a very low risk of the opossum in your backyard being rabid.  Therefore, not only do opossums prevent the spread of other diseases by eating carrion, they also are at very low risk of being carriers themselves.

As you can see, there is no reason why you and your friendly neighborhood opossum cannot coexist in a mutually beneficial relationship! Opossums help keep your garden free of pests with very little cost to yourself. Welcome an opossum into your garden this summer!

About Opossums

All About Opossums

What It Means When You See an Active Opossum During Day

Identifying Opossum Tracks

Opossum Tails

Opossum Mating and Rearing

Do Opossums Hibernate?

An Opossum's Natural Predators

Can Opossums Burrow or Dig Holes?

Causes of Opossum Odor and How to Remove It

What Makes Opossums Distinct?

Opossums and Diseases

Symptoms of Sick Opossums

Can Opossums Run Fast?

Can Opossums Climb?

Opossum Size

Is Opossum Urine Toxic? (and how to remove the smell)

Do Opossums Live in the Wild or Urban Areas?

Opossum Feces

All About "Playing Possum"

Opossums During Winter

Opossum Diet and Foraging

Do Opossums Hiss?

Opossums vs. Possums

Do Opossums Live in Trees?

Common Issues Opossums Cause

Related Questions

Is it Illegal to Trap an Opossum?

What to Do With Orphaned Baby Opossums

What Causes Opossums to Die Under Homes?

Should Opossums be Poisoned?

Can Opossums be Good Pets?

Do Pest Control Companies Remove Opossums?

Will City or County Animal Services Help With Opossums?

Should I Feed a Baby Opossum?

What Dangers Do Opossums Pose to Pets?

Prevention Methods

Repelling Opossums

Natural Deterrents to Use Against Opossums

What Attracts Opossums?

Keeping Opossums Away From Your Property

Keeping Opossums Out of the Garden

Keeping Opossums Away From Your Property

Keeping Opossums Away From Garbage Cans

Dealing with Opossums

Removing Opossums From Under Your Shed or Porch

Handling Opossums - Tips and Risks

Trapping an Opossum

Locating and Removing Dead Opossums

Removing Opossums From Inside Your Walls

Best Opossum Baits

What to do After Catching an Opossum

Getting Rid of Opossums Humanely

Removing Opossums From Your Attic

Dealing With Opossums in the House

Relocating a Trapped Opossum

Opossum Removal - Professional vs. DIY


Indoor Opossum Damage

The Importance of Wildlife Rehabilitators

What to Do in Case of an Opossum Bite