Their diet mainly consists of carrion (dead and putrefying flesh) and many individual opossums are killed on the highway when scavenging for roadkill. They are also known to eat insects, frogs, birds, snakes, small mammals, and earthworms. Some of their favorite foods are fruits, and they are known to eat avocados, apples, clementines, and persimmons. Their broad diet allows them to take advantage of many sources of food provided by human habitation such as unsecured food waste (garbage) and pet food. When threatened or harmed, they will “play possum”, mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal. Threatened opossums (especially males) will growl deeply, raising their pitch as the threat becomes more urgent. Opossums are about eight times less likely to carry rabies than wild dogs, and about one in eight hundred opossums are infected with this virus. Adult opossums do not hang from trees by their tails, as sometimes depicted, though babies may dangle temporarily. Their semi-prehensile tails are not strong enough to support a mature adult’s weight. Instead, the opossum uses its tail as a brace and a fifth limb when climbing. The tail is occasionally used as a grip to carry bunches of leaves or bedding materials to the nest.
Prevention: The most effective method of preventing opossums is to deny access to structures by using exclusion techniques previously discussed for other nuisance wildlife. Live-catch traps can be used to capture and remove problem animals. The traps should be set in locations the animal frequents or where it is causing damage. Call us for a free inspection.