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As rural land is continuously developed, opossums are pushed out of their natural habitat, forced to search for food and shelter in urban areas inhabited by people. And though most individuals have sympathy for wild animals trying to survive, it doesn’t mean they want them living in their home or on their property.

Opossums can create quite a mess and aren’t the cleanest animals, but they are fascinating creatures. Here are 10 facts about the misunderstood marsupial:

  1. Opossums roamed the same land with dinosaurs over 70 million years ago. While dinosaurs are now extinct, there are more than 60 species of opossums.
  2. Naturally high levels of immunity to most diseases mean opossums are more resistant to contracting rabies than any other mammal. They are also partially or entirely immune to snake venom, thanks to the serum protein in their blood that neutralizes it.
  3. Nicknamed “nature’s little sanitation engineers,” the opossums are opportunistic omnivores with a diet consisting of insects, snails, slugs, birds, frogs, rodents, eggs, fruits, plants, grains, and carrion. They also feed on human and pet food, and whatever scraps they can find in garbage cans or compost piles. They have an extremely high need for calcium which provokes them to eat the skeletons of the dead animals they consume.
  4. Though many people refer to opossums as large rats, they are actually marsupials (pouched mammals), like kangaroos and koalas.
  5. The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is the only marsupial in North America.
  6. While you don’t want an opossum eating fruit and vegetables growing in your garden, they are great for cleaning up rotten fruit from the ground as well as feasting on pesky snails, slugs, cockroaches, and beetles.
  7. The opposable “thumbs” on the opossum’s rear feet assist them in climbing. In addition to opossums, primates are the only other mammals with opposable first toes.
  8. Opossums use their long, hairless prehensile tails to grasp materials and wrap around objects such as tree limbs. And, while they can hang from their tails for a brief time, they don’t actually sleep upside down like a lot of people may think.
  9. The mouth of an opossum has 50 teeth, more than any other North American land mammal.

When threatened, opossums pretend they are dead by rolling over, closing their eyes, becoming stiff, and forming a foul-smelling fluid from their glands. The


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