Opossums refers to the group of marsupials residing in Australia, Sulawesi and New Guinea. With 60 species known worldwide, Virginia opossum is the most common and only one in North America.
Opossums have long been seen as a dirty scavenger, unsuitable for interfering with human societies. But why are possums popular as pets? What are the positive features of this animal for humans? What do possums eat?
Because of their habit of eating just about anything, Possums act as a free pest control on their lawns and farms. They have some great ability to find food anywhere. They can remember the exact location where it is, which means they will come back to find the same food in the exact location.
according to study Published in Landscape Architecture Magazine, Possums scored higher than other animals like rabbits, cats and dogs in lab tests to assess the animals’ ability to recall food. Since these marsupials are known to ingest anything, the question often arises is, what do opossums eat, or is there anything they don’t eat?
What do possums eat?
Unlike other scavengers, Possums are not picky eaters, they can eat and digest anything, including dead animals, mollusks, beetles, snails, crickets, lizards, rats, vegetables and fruits, snakes, bird eggs with shells, frogs, Even carrion. These marsupials, if available, have the delicious taste of sweet potatoes and yams.
For them, access to food has never been an issue due to their anatomical structure and eating habits, which makes them opportunists as they eat what they find first.
Being nocturnal and visually impaired have never hampered their search for food because they are built with a strong sense of smell and hearing and sharp claws used for digging, climbing and taking pictures.
Attractive foods for possums
Besides searching for litter and dead animals, Possums, in particular, like to enjoy eating sweet things like fruits, marshmallows, peanut butter, and jam.
They have high calcium requirements. Therefore, they eat the remains of the skeletons of animals. Almost all of these marsupials are omnivores, but some, such as brush-tailed Possums, feed on plant matter such as Australian mistletoe and can even eat vegetables. The diet of herbivores consists of leaves, twigs, shoots and poisonous seeds.
Mountain Pygmy Possums have the most common diet which consists of plum wine, Snow Beard Heaths, and confined fruit bear. While Tasmanian Pygmy Possum feeds on pollen and nectar from Eucalyptus and Melaleuca, thus becoming a direct pollinator for these plants. On the other hand, Northern Brushtail Possums are more likely to be found in your gardens because they live near urban areas and feed on leaves, seeds, flowers, and fruits.
Opossum baby diet
Adults are well-equipped to litter and forage for food, but newborn opossums the size of honeybees stay in their mother’s pouch for about 80 days. They only come out of their mother’s bag after they are mature enough to search for things on their own.
Slugs, bird eggs, snails, worms and crickets are some of the favorite meals of a baby opossum. If you find an orphaned and hungry little opossum, try feeding it cat food or pet food; They will definitely enjoy it.
Foods to avoid feeding local possums
For home possums, you can feed them high-protein and low-fat foods, cooked foods, and some vegetables.
The fact that these marsupials can eat almost anything is real, but up to a point, because there are certain foods that you need to avoid giving them. These foods include bread, cakes, crackers, raw meat, almonds, cheese, onions, dairy products, green potatoes, fast food, and cooked bones. Raw meat is usually dangerous to their health because it contains parasites such as Toxoplasma gondii.
An excessive amount of supplemented foods with pure forms of vitamin A or D is not recommended. Large amounts of fruit, canned cat food, chicken or other meat, and baby cereals are not recommended for these marsupials.
If you have a young possum, feed it only soy milk or any other non-vegetarian milk. Cow’s milk contains lactose and can cause diarrhea that slows down their growth and eventually leads to death.
Why are possums attracted to urban gardens?
The main reason people think these marsupials are bad is their foraging behavior through trash cans. They are generally drawn to your garden to find leftovers if you leave them in the trash around your garden.
They were blinded by the smell of trash cans, containers, or uncovered compost heaps and followed the food source to feed. Furthermore, if your garden is near a sewer, sewer, or river, you can expect more marsupials on your property because these creatures prefer to live near water sources.
Certain scents, especially those of cinnamon, invite these marsupials to your garden. This is why people use cinnamon or other sweet scents to attract these creatures as bait.
Another reason people are made worse by the presence of these marsupials is that they are known to eat cats. This is of course not true. These marsupials can only attack cats if they feel they are easy prey, but chances are high that they will be threatened by the presence of dogs and cats.
Opossums as useful animals
Contrary to popular belief, Possums are gentle, clean creatures. They sometimes grumble, hit or, in some rare cases, bite, but they are not aggressive. They’d rather faint or play dead in dangerous situations than hurt you. Because of their feeding habits of foraging in the litter, they help clean gardens and keep them pest-free. Possums balance the food web in the ecosystem by acting as natural pests in gardens where they feed on garden pests such as small rodents, beetles, and insects.
Ossums are almost immune to snake venom. Thus, they control snake populations in urban areas by feeding on snakes. Search It was found that the peptide contained in the possum can be used as an antivenom treatment. They can eliminate ticks and help fight Lyme disease in homes. An opossum can eat 4,000 ticks per season, fulfilling its role as a natural cleaner for household pests such as ticks.
Can you keep possums as pets?
Have you found an abandoned or injured possum on the road, or are you considering buying a possum because of its benefits?
Although Possums are quiet creatures, like most wild animals, they are best left in the wild. Some states do not allow wildlife as a pet even if they allow it under a wildlife permit. You can keep infected wildlife as a pet until they are healthy.
Opossums carry disease-causing human pathogens such as leptospirosis, tuberculosis, relapsing fever, tularemia, spotted fever, coccidiosis, trichomoniasis, and Chagas disease. It is therefore generally advised not to handle an injured or abandoned opossum alone and certainly not to make it your pet. Alternatively, contact a wildlife specialist who will help the opossum rehabilitate in the wild. If help is taking time or you are in a remote area, do not attempt to touch the opossum with your hands; Instead, use a towel to handle it.
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