Facts about Opossums: What You Need to Know

Many people fear opossums, often called possums. Getting the facts about possums straight may help ease some of that fear. Catch up on some of these possum facts and decide whether or not these animals are as bad as you once thought.

Opossum facts or possum facts

Opossums are the furry white animals that are commonly found as roadkill along the side of streets in the United States. These animals can be found throughout North America and Canada. Often, their name is shortened to possum, although the word possum also refers to a different animal found only in Australia. This list of possum facts refers only to those found in North America.

They carry their young in pouches like kangaroos

Opossums are the only marsupials found in the United States. Marsupials are a type of animal that give birth to underdeveloped young and nurse those young in pouches on their stomachs until the newborns are able to walk. Other marsupials include kangaroos, koalas and wallabies.

Opossums were once considered pets

The possum can now be found throughout North America. However, it is not native to the West Coast. A possum population in the West began only after people living in Tennessee began shipping them to parts of California in the late 1800s, marked as a food “delicacy.” Later, possum fur was used as a cheap alternative and some people also adopted possums as pets. Being the adaptable creatures they are, their numbers quickly expanded.

They are highly misunderstood

Of all these possum facts, this one is important to note if you have an above average fear. Most possums are shy and non-aggressive when compared to other animals. While they are prone to a defensive stance that involves baring their teeth and hissing, this act is often as much of a bluff as “playing possum.” When under attack, these animals sometimes “play possum” by pretending to be dead. This makes their aggressors less likely to attack.

They were named by one of the first American colonists

Jamestown colonist, Captain John Smith, was the first person to use the term “opossum” to describe this animal. The name was an anglicized version of the Native American term apasum, which means, “white animal.”

They have opposable thumbs and a grasping tail

Opossums are able climbers, thanks in part to their opposable thumbs and prehensile tails. Prehensile means their tails have the ability to grasp. Possums can hang from their tails for short periods of time, particularly the young, and also use their tails sometimes to carry objects back to their dens.

These facts about possums are probably not enough to make you want to take one in as a pet, but they might buy you some peace of mind until a pest management professional arrives. To solve a pest problem in your home, call Terminix®. They have all the possum facts you need to return these animals back to the wild where they belong.