by Doreen S Damm
Oh Opossum, My first encounter with an opossum was investigating a scratching sound on the ceiling over my bed. “Oh goody, rats!” I thought. So out came the ladder and up into the attic crawl space I went. After moving the Christmas decorations out of the way, my flashlight caught the glow of two eyes peering at me. Too big to be a rat, I angled my flashlight to get a better look. It was an opossum. Now just how did that large animal get into my attic. We finally caught it going up the cover kit for the air conditioning lines. We waited until we knew the opossum was out for the night scavenging and sealed the opening with wire mesh. With its access closed, the opossum moved on.
Today our wildlife garden is located in the perfect area for opossums. We have seen them at night. We have seen them stand their ground over feeding rights with the raccoons at the bird feeding stations. And we have even seen the juveniles during the day. I welcome the opossums into my garden as they act like my little cleaning crew, eating leftover seed and nuts so the bird food never goes bad. I always know when I have been visited as they cannot digest the shells and they regurgitate soft little pellets on the feeders.
Not only good for cleaning up my feeders, they also dine on over ripe fruit and veggies, insects, cockroaches, slugs, snakes, rats and mice. This makes them a welcome addition to any neighborhood. Opossums tend to be transient by nature, rarely taking up permanent residence in one location. This makes trapping unnecessary. And, unlike raccoons, the chance of an opossum carrying rabies is extremely rare.
The Virginia Opossum is Florida’s only marsupial. Their young, anywhere from 7 to 11 tiny ones, will stay in the female’s pouch where they nurse for a period of about 80 days. Sadly, when a female opossum gets hit by a car, if there are babies in her pouch, they will surely die unless rescued by an animal shelter. Once old enough to leave the pouch, they hitch a ride on mama’s back. In another 15 to 20 days they will be able to be on their own.
Doreen S. Damm
Nature Photographer &