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Opossum Evidence of Intrusion

Opossum Evidence of Intrusion is mainly linked to the animals diet.  Because they do not hibernate or store food their year round foraging may lead them directly to your yard and garden.  Evidence may present itself in one or more of the following signs of intrusion.

Opossum Evidence of Intrusion-Missing Pet Food
If you find your dog's dish was full when you went to bed and empty in the morning, this could be a sign that an opossum has optioned to help himself to a free meal.

Opossum Evidence of Intrusion-Garbage Cans Turned Over
These animals are scavengers and will become regular visitors to garbage containers and dumpsters.  Finding your cans turned on their sides and non edible trash strewn haphazardly around your yard could be evidence that an opossum has been over for a visit.

Opossum Evidence of Intrusion-Birdfeeder Sightings
Bird seed is a quick and easy treat for North America's only marsupial.  Many a homeowner has looked out the window to find a hungry opossum greedily feasting on millet and sunflower seeds set out for the song birds.

Opossum Evidence of Intrusion-Missing Poultry
For those homeowners who are raising chickens, fox may not be the only culprits when your poultry goes missing.  While opossums prefer carrion over live meat, they may opt for your chicken leaving you without Sunday dinner or fresh eggs for breakfast.

Opossum Evidence of Intrusion-Pets getting into fights/presenting with injuries. It is only natural for our domestic pets to want to protect their homes and territories.  Not surprisingly when they come across an intruder, such as an opossum, they will do what comes natural and confront the opossum.  While opossums are not overtly aggressive, they, too, will defend themselves when necessary and with 50 teeth in their mouth, that just might lead to severe bite wounds to your pet.

Opossum Evidence of Intrusion-Scat

Sometimes the best way to determine what type of animal may be in your yard and gardens at night is by what they might leave behind. Opossum scat, or excrement, will be approximately two (2) to two and a half  (2 1/2) inches long and are irregularly shaped. Pieces of fruit hulls, seeds, feathers or fur are often visible in the droppings.

Opossum Evidence of Intrusion-Tracks

As with all animals tracks can be most easily detected in soft ground including mud, snow, or fine soil.  You may also find them on your deck rails, on top of garbage can lids or any other surface that will help the opossums gain access to structures. The physical appearance of the tracks are quite telling due to the rear feet having the opposable thumbs. These tiny appendages are at a near 90 degree angle from the other toes of the hind feet.  There may also be evidence of their tail dragging behind.  The image below illustrates what the track of the opossum looks like.

As shown here, there are several different ways to determine if the pest in your yard is an opossum.  From non harmful proof such as tracks in the mud and scat left behind to more detrimental and costly proof such as injury to your house pets, it is easy to determine that, as with most animals, the opossum's diet linked to many of the opossum evidence of intrusion.

Opossum Interesting Facts

Ever wonder how fast an opossum can run or how many teeth it has?  Keep reading for answers to these and more interesting facts about the opossum.

  • Opossums are the only marsupials in North America.
  • Opossums are doing very well in North America compared to other marsupials on other continents that have been driven to extinction by more modern mammals.
  • Opossums are smart animals. Results from some learning and discrimination tests rank opossums above dogs in intelligence.
  • Opossums do not hibernate in the winter and they do not store food.  They forage year-round.
  • The opossums of North America are different from the "possum" of Austrailia.
  • While not related to the possum of Australia, the male opossum is called a "Jack", the female a "Jill", young are called "Joeys" and a group of opossums are called "Passel".
  • Opossum's are highly resistant to rabies.
  • Opossums do not hibernate.  They stay awake and forage all winter long.
  • Opossums are immune to the venom of both the rattle snake and cottonmouth snake.
  • Every see a cross eyed opossum?  That could mean that he hasn't missed any meals.  This marsupial gains weight at the base of their tail and the whites of their eyes. The extra fat in the eyes pushes them closer to their snout.
  • Opossums have 50 teeth! 
  • Because of their affinity to eat almost everything, including things other animals will not, opossums have been coined by some as Nature's Sanitation Engineer.
  • The term "Playing Possum" comes from one of the animal's main defense against predators-pretending to be deceased. This is actually a nervous/shock reaction where the animal lays on its side, its heart rate slows and its tongue hangs out of its mouth.
  • Infant opossums are so small at birth that you could fit 20 newborns into one (1) teaspoon.
  • Opossums give birth to seven (7) to nine (9) babies only 12 -13 days after copulation.
  • Opossum babies are dependent upon the mother for about 100 days after being born.
  • Opossums have a very short life span. Most only live 18 months to two (2) years.
  • Opossums are not very social adept.  Males will fight each other if they are confided together.
  • The population density of opossums in the wild is small with only about one (1) animal per ten (10) acres.
  • Opossums are very clean!  Despite what some people believe opossums spend most of their time grooming themselves, much like the domestic cat.  They have even been known to interrupt eating to wash their fur!
  • Opossums are so used to being around people they have been known to enter homes through pet door looking for food.
  • Opossums are slow movers and have a top running speed of only about 4-7 miles per hour.

Opossum Diet

Opossum diet includes just about everything! They are true omnivores, regularly eating both meat and plants. Coined by some as "Nature's Little Sanitation Engineer", North America's only marsupial has earned a reputation for cleaning up rotting fruits and nuts from trees, dead animals from the sides of roadways and anything else it can get its hands on. Unfortunately, they also have a pension for green plants and this could mean you will have less tomatoes for canning this year.

Opossum Diet-Food

More specifically the food the opossum will eat includes small rodents such as voles, mice and rats, including carrion; insects such as cockroaches, beetles and crickets; snakes, frogs, birds and bird eggs; fruits, nuts, and, unfortunately, garden plants. Nocturnal by nature opossums forage at night. They normally stick close to their dens, but have been known to travel up to 2 miles in search of food.

Opossum Diet-Physical Attributes

Opossums have been very successful in North America. This is due, in part, to their varied diet, but also because of a few unique physical characteristics that help this little creature along.

A prehensile tail helps the opossum obtain food quiet nicely. A prehensile tail is defined as a tail that can be used to grasp. The tail can curl around branches of trees to help the animal in climbing and to assist in balance as well. Contrary to some "tales", opossums rarely use their tails to hang upside down and if they do it is normally only for a few seconds to assist in their movement through the trees. This is seen more in young opossums, or joeys, than in the adults.

The Opossum diet is also assisted through the opposable "thumbs" found on the the animals finger like rear feet. They can grasp and hold items just as you and I making foraging for food a much easier task.

Opossum Diet-Seasonal Variances

While Nature's Sanitation Engineer will eat most anything the season does play a role in what they may chose to eat. In the summer and fall when fruits are very abundant, opossums will consume natural delicacies such as blackberries, tomatoes and persimmons and when acorns are dropping in the fall and winter they will make these their preferred entree. Insects and larvae will top their list of best foods to eat during warmer months.

Opossum Diet-Benefits and Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem

The opossum's diet can have a less desirable affect for humans. In your yard and garden areas opossums may get into garbage cans, eat any pet food left out and steal a tomato or two (2). Yet, for the most part the diet of this marsupial plays a positive role in human and natural interactions. They eat foods or "garbage" that other animals may not including rotting fruit and dead animal flesh and help to keep garden and house pest populations under control including larger insects and mice!

The Virginia Opossum is one hardworking animal; when it comes to eating, of course. If you find that the fallen apples under your trees are disappearing or you don't seem to see as many voles as your used to, you may have a new neighbor, and who knows, it just may turn out that you may be thankful for the opossum's diet!

Opossum Habitat

Opossum habitat in the wild will be centered around wooded areas with water nearby. You will not find them deep in the woods, they prefer to live near edges and have adapted nicely to urban, as well as, rural human populations. In the wild they will shelter in sheds, abandoned dens or nests of other animals, brush piles, and hollow trees or fallen logs. In your yard these marsupials will take up residence in your woodpile, shed, garage, or under your deck or porch.

Opossum Habitat-Range

The Virginia opossum became prevalent through out most of North America during the 1900s when they were brought to many of the western states as pets. As with most wild animals, many escaped back into the wild or were intentionally released. They have been very successful in most parts of the continent, but you will be hard pressed to find them in the higher altitudes of the Rockies.

Closer to home, ranges of individual animals will vary from 12-264 acres. Breeding males making the longer treks if necessary.

Opossum Habitat-Climate

Opossums appear to enjoy most of the climate conditions found from southern Canada south through central Mexico with one exception: the higher altitudes of the Rocky Mountains. In fact, the spread of the animal to the West coast of the United States is contributed to human introduction rather than a natural march west by the animal.

Opossum Habitat-Dens

Opossums aren't too picky when it comes to their den habitat. The will sleep anywhere it is dry and safe. North America's only marsupial's engineering skills are limited to sanitation and do not translate into construction. Rather than building their own dens they often will recycle burrows that were created by other animals or take up shelter under buildings, decks, porches and even in hollow stumps and trees, and rock crevices.

That doesn't mean they wont make these areas more suitable to their liking. Once they have claimed a burrow or stump as their own they will fill it dried leaves and grasses making themselves a very plush and warm nesting area. Their grasping tail plays a role in nest building by assisting in carrying the nest materials.

Due to the large number of predators that prey on the animals they switch den locations every few days. According to experts a male opossum that was followed by a radio tracking devise used 19 different dens over a five (5) month period.

The Virginia Opossum has a wide range of habitats and it appears it is not to concerned about where it will sleep at night as long as it has a place to hide from predators. Be mindful the next time you are pulling wood out of your wood pile or cleaning out under your porch as these areas make excellent Opossum habitat.

Opossum Benefits & Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem

As with most wild animals opossums do carry several diseases that could be harmful to humans.  According to experts these include toxoplasmosis, coccidiosis, trichomoniasis, and leptospirosis, tuberculosis, relapsing fever, tularemia, spotted fever, and Chagas disease.  According to experts they may also carry Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM), a disease that affects horses.

For homeowners with pets, opossums may prove especially troublesome.  Not only will they feed on pet food left outside, they have been known to fight with dogs and cats.  With fifty teeth and sharp claws, this has left the family pet with injuries requiring a potentially expensive trip to the veterinarian's office.  Opossums are also hosts for the fleas and ticks commonly found on house pets, too.

On the other hand, opossums have such a varied diet that they have been coined "Nature's Little Sanitation Engineer" which can be quite beneficial to our yards, gardens and neighborhoods.  Not only do they eat the rotting overripe apples laying on the ground keeping the area clean and the bee populations manageable, they eat nuisance pests such as mice and voles and cockroaches and leaf destroying beetles!

North America's only marsupial is surviving very successfully living in and around human habitats.  Don't be surprised if your yard becomes home to the strange, albeit, cute marsupial the Virginia Opossum.

Opossum Behavior

This animal is quite smart, in fact, according to some opossum fans, they are smarter than dogs!  Nocturnal by nature, theses marsupials spend most of their days asleep in their nests and there nights out foraging for food.  They are not very large as stated earlier so their defense mechanisms are quite refined.

Probably the most famous of all these defense tactics is playing dead, AKA, "playing possum".  This tactic works quite well and is just as it sounds:  the animal collapses onto its side and pretends to be dead until the would be predator gives up and walks away!  Other strategies include drooling excessively which tricks predators into thinking that the animal is sick, the spraying of an foul smelling anal gland fluid that makes predators leave and displaying what many have coined "alligator mouth" which shows off the animals 50 teeth which would be a scary site for anyone.

Opossum Physical Appearance

The word "opossum" comes from the Algonquian Indian word "pasum" and means "white animal". The opossum's fur is actually a soft gray.   The animals normally weight in at about 15 pounds and reach lengths of up to three (3) feet long including their tail.  Opossum have small hand like feet with the rear feet including an opposable thumb to help grasp onto tree branches.  To aid in grasping and balance they also have prehensile tail-a tail adapted for that very purpose. The tail and ears of the opossum are hairless.  Combine that with a pointed face and you can understand why many gardeners have taken a quick step back when they come across this somewhat odd looking marsupial!

Opossum Natural History

Opossums have the proud distinction of being the only marsupial in North America. A marsupial is defined as an animal that has a pouch to carry its young just like the better known marsupials such as the Australian Kangaroo.  There are 65 species of opossum in the world today with the Virginia Opossum, Didelphia virginiana the most prevalent and the only opossum native to and living in North America.  Opossums have a high mortality rate and rarely live beyond two (2) years of age in the wild.  This can be attributed to their many enemies including dogs, foxes, raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, eagles, hawks, owls and automobiles.

Virginia Opossum

Scientific Name: Didelphia virginianus
Phylum:  Chordata
Class:  Mammalia
Order: Didelphimorphia
Suborder: Marsupials
Family: Didelphinae
Genus: Didelphis  virginianus

Opossums in your yard and gardens can be quite a sight.  While they are mostly nocturnal many a gardener has been startled by the sudden appearance of an opossum from out of the garden shed or wood pile. This garden pest has long history of upsetting gardeners which is most likely due to the fact that they will eat everything and anything including your heirloom tomatoes!

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