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.
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!