What do possums eat? [Discover their strange diet]
Are they possums or opossums? That’s the first question that always comes up. It’s not exactly clear when the “o” was dropped, but the correct term for these pests is actually “opossum.” However, the name “possum” first appeared as early as 1613 and is the accepted name for the only marsupial in North America.
There are over 60 species of opossum, with the Virginia possum being the most common. Possums have always been seen as a filthy scavengers, but unknown to most is that they are quite intelligent when it comes to food and memory at least. They have a special ability to find food and then remember where they left it.
This enables them to return time and time again to the same food sources, which isn’t ideal if it’s your trash. In lab testing for animal memory, opossums scored higher than rats, rabbits, cats, and even dogs! Opossums are nocturnal animals, choosing to hunt at night time, so seeing them is unlikely.
So what do opossums eat?
What Are Possums?
Image credit: Patrick Coin
The opossum is the only marsupial native to the United States. The indigenous opossum is often considered to resemble big ugly rats. They are fairly easy to recognize by their scrawny appearance, with a narrow pointed ratlike snout and a long pink tipped tail which is also similar to that of a rat.
Exposing the mouth of an opossum reveals around 50 razor sharp teeth, ready to tear through the flesh of rotting roadkill. The opossum has the highest number of teeth out of all mammals in North America. The Virginia opossum is a similar size to the average house hold cat.
What Do Possums Eat?
A better question is what don’t opossums eat? Opossums will try to eat most objects they find. Like humans, opossums are omnivores – they ingest plants and meat, not to mention everything in between.
The possum diet consists of dead animals, rodents, birds, and insects. The common opossum may be found looting your garbage cans in search for any scraps. They will also ingest eggs, frogs, fruits, and seeds. What possums seek most in their diet is their need for high amounts of calcium. Because of this, opossums will happily eat skeletal remains of rodents and any other animal they can find. But that’s not all. Opossums will also ingest dog food, cat food, and any other table scraps.
Carry on reading for more information on the various things that makes up a opossum diet.
Possums Eat Insects
Possums do have some positive benefits. Despite their scavenger appearance, these animals make a great exterminator for insects. Opossums like to eat cockroaches, spiders, slugs, snails – yup pretty much any bug you can think of, they will probably devour it. These animals will get rid of unpleasant insects in your yard, free of charge!
Opossums Eat Plants and Leaves
Possums will also ingest weeds, plants, and any leaves. While it’s useful that they’ll cure your weed problem, they do prefer decaying plants over healthy ones. I guess a taste bud type deal, but something to be noted.
Possums Do Eat Meat
Opossums will happily devour every part of roadkill, from the meat to the bones. They are commonly seen feasting on the carcasses of dead animals on the side of the road. This animal is fairly easy to spot due to their gaunt appearance and skinny long tail.
Possums Will Eat Your Trash
What lives in your trash? You guessed it: rodents, cockroaches, ants etc. And guess what eats all of those things? That’s right, possums. If it smells remotely like food, opossums will track it down and probably try to consume it. Even though this may benefit your pest control arsenal, once possums start ransacking your trash, things will get messy quickly.
Possums are also attracted to the smell of garbage, especially trash that contains a food source such as food scraps. This can be annoying for homeowners, especially when opossums rip open garbage bags and scatter trash all over your yard looking for the scraps they smell.
Possums Are Known To Eat Pet Food
Have you ever put out food for your dog or cat and then had to double take because it’s suddenly disappeared? There is a possibility that an opossum might have eaten it. It’s not completely uncommon for opossums to consume pet food which has been left outside homes, especially in urban areas where there isn’t much wildlife.
This is one of the early signs that an opossum is on the prowl. Their reclusive habits and nocturnal sleeping pattern prevent possums coming out and being spotted by humans during the day.
Are possums dangerous?
Opossums are considered a pest throughout the United States due to the damage they can do to yards by destroying plants and garden vegetables. Opossums often get into fights with house hold pets such as dogs and cats, and are capable of inflicting severe injuries.
Opossums are known to carry several diseases such as Leptospirosis, which is a bacterial virus which begins with similar symptoms to flu. It’s important to make sure to see a doctor if you’ve been near a possum and you’re showing symptoms, as it can cause liver failure and respiratory issues. This disease is spread through the urine and the feces of the Opossum. It also affects house hold pets such as cats and dogs.
In order to prevent the virus spreading, make sure to keep your animals vaccinated against leptospirosis.
Do Opossums Eat Cats?
Opossums are nocturnal omnivores that feast upon fruits, nuts, plants, insects, snails, birds, and even small mammals such as voles and mice. However, their are no findings to suggest that the native Opossum preys upon pets such as cats. But if the opossum feels threatened, they will lash out and attack them if cornered, or if contending for the same food.
Do Possums Eat Roaches?
Yes, Possums eat a variety of different insects, including cockroaches.
Do Possums Eat Bones?
Do Possums Eat Ants?
Once again, yes! Possums make for a great natural pest controller as they will also eat ants.
Do Opossums Eat Spiders?
The Possum is a great hunter. They will consume anything from prey to spiders.
What Are Opossums Good For?
In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported almost 60,000 cases of tick borne disease with the US. There is one saviour of the animal world that helps lower the influx of ticks. The Virginia opossum, the only marsupial in the US. Possums kill nearly 95% of ticks they encounter. A single possum can kill up to five thousand ticks each season. Not only do opossums devour ticks, they will also consume other common pests such as cockroaches, rats, and mice. Consider the Virginia opossum your neighborhood pest control expert.
So there we have it, possums will consume anything dead or alive; consider them a garbage disposal or pest control operative. Not only will they kill 95% of ticks in their way per season, but will also get rid of other pests like cockroaches, rats, and mice free of charge.
But be careful if you think you have an opossum problem – remember they can spread diseases to humans and pets through their excrement.
Make sure you use bleach and PPE when removing any pest feces.
There’s a few ways to help deter the common opossum looting your yard:
- Remove fallen or rotting fruit
- Don’t leave any pet food outside
- Use chicken wire around your yard
- Do not add food to your compost bin