The North American opossum, also called the Virginia opossum, is the only marsupial native to the United States. They are commonly (and incorrectly) referred to as “possums,” but this name actually comes from a marsupial species that’s from Australia. There are other misconceptions about Opposums, which we will now attempt to clear up.

Fierce or Cowardly?
Opposums have an intimidating look as they hiss at you with their pointy teeth and claws but they’re prone to pretending to be dead when they face real danger. It may look like the opossum had a heart attack and died on the spot, and that is what it wants you to think. This defense method is a built-in reaction to fear and is triggered automatically, as opposed to being an “act” that it voluntarily performs. For good measure, its anal gland emits a smelly secretion that adds to the illusion that it is nothing more than a rotting corpse.

Does this make them safe?
They are typically not aggressive even when provocted but should only be handled by an expert. They’re not prone to rabies because their body temperatures are lower than most animals making it difficult for the rabies virus to stay alive in their system. But opossums are, however, frequent carriers of parasites such as fleas, ticks and mites, and may have the following transmissible diseases:
• Coccidiosis
• Leptospirosis
• Salmonella
• Toxoplasmosis
• Tuberculosis
• Tularemia

Because of this, it’s advised to let any opossum problem be handled by a professional. If you notice any structural damage or find opposums nesting in or around your home call an ACE professional today and get a free evaluation.