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Possums are a type of opossum, a marsupial whose name means “grasping hands.” Possums are common in most areas of the world.
They are found in North America, Australia, and New Zealand. Possums can grow up to 2 feet in length, weigh an average of 7 pounds, and get over 20 pounds.
On average, possums have a very long lifespan of 13 to 15 years in the wild possum. And up to an estimated 30 years or more for some possums that have been kept as pets.
The only way to determine their sex is by checking the animal’s pouch while it is sleeping. Pet possums will also come when called. And learn tricks such as fetching their favorite toy or playing the possum dead game.
To fend off predators, possums will try to scare them off by stamping their feet or hissing. They have been living in treetops.
They build nests that hang out upside down, with their tails acting as the only grip point. Usually on trees or vines that hang down from trees.
Their tails are very strong and have a prehensile tip, so they can be used to hang from branches. They have been found in suburban areas, living in trees, houses, under decks, downpipes, and on roofs.
Generic Name: Possums
Scientific Name: Phalangeriformes
Kinds Of Possums
There are many types of possums, but you will find the Virginia Opossum and the Ring-Tailed Possum in North America.
The Virginia Opossum is often mistaken for a rat. To identify them, it has a pointed snout, whiskers, and long bushy tail. Its fur is coarse and grayish-brown to brownish-gray.
Opossums prefer to live in trees, but they do come down to the ground at night to look for food. Opossums are usually docile and slow. If you find an opossum during the day, she may be sick or scared.
Besides having the long, bushy tail of a ring-tailed possum. Its body is grayish and has alternating rings of black and white fur.
The ring-tailed possum is very playful and likes to play with its long tail. You can often find a ring-tailed possum living in trees or near creeks. It is because water is a good source of food for them.
Veterinarian Insights on Ethical and Care Considerations for Keeping Possums as Pets
“Possums are unique and fascinating creatures, but their needs and habits make them unsuitable for conventional pet keeping in numerous ways.
One essential ethical consideration is that possums are wild animals and inherently nomadic, meaning confining them in a domestic space can lead to undue stress and health challenges.
Many states also have regulations against keeping them as pets without appropriate permits. [In] terms of care, possums require a diet of diverse fruits, insects, and small vertebrates, which can be difficult to replicate in a home setting.
Secondly, they are nocturnal, have a relatively short lifespan (2-4 years), and can exhibit defensive behaviors when threatened. Captivity may inadvertently impose stressors that hinder their well-being. Therefore, any decisions about keeping possums as pets [should be] made after careful consideration of these notable factors.”
What Do Possums Eat?
Possums are mostly nocturnal. They sleep during the day and come out at night. People might think they have poor eyesight at night. Instead, they have fantastic night vision.
They will forage for food during the night and eat insects, worms, fruit, berries, and fruit flies. In the wild, the feeding habits of an adult possum would be 70% vegetation and 30% animal protein.
The vegetation possum’s diet includes a wide variety of foods. It includes things like trees, berries, leaves, and twigs. Besides, to fill their bellies with all that juicy leafy green goodness.
They also eat vegetables. They also need to consume meats to take in key nutrients such as calcium ions and other minerals. They get it from snails and slugs.
Among the meat items are small birds, insects, and animals in their prey’s habitat. Their diet is primarily made up of insects like beetles or grubs, which they can usually find at night when they go out hunting. They sometimes get rabies and can be infected with the disease by the bite of a cat.
Some people may assume that possums only eat plants since they were from a land down under, but this is untrue. Possums eat a wide variety of foods. Possum’s diet changes depending on their location and the season.
When we think about what we call a “niche.” We tend to think about animals living in places where resources are plentiful.
So it makes sense that possums would thrive in areas with abundant food sources. In terms of the possum’s diet, this is true.
Possums can thrive in places with little vegetation available. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need vegetation for sustenance.
They usually stick around trees in the morning. Late afternoon, where they may find a wide variety of insects. Young opossums can be fed pet food like cat food.
Possums eat just about anything worth eating, such as fruits and nuts, insects, small mammals such as mice and rats, and birds such as chickens and pigeons.
They will also eat garden plants which they prefer if they can reach them without being caught in a trap. Or stepped on by children, though most people either do not realize this or don’t care. The reason is that it makes their garden look more attractive to them.
Most people don’t realize it. But actually, possums are quite beneficial animals. Sometimes, they also act as scavengers.
They eat out of garbage cans, they eat small rodents, and last but not least, sometimes they eat dead animals.
Moreover, they help to keep Lyme disease at bay. A study reveals that Opossums kill 90% of household pests like ticks that attach to them.
Possums in Suburbia: Guardians of Ecology and Challenges in Coexistence
“Possums play a pivotal role in maintaining suburban ecology. These adaptive marsupials are known to be opportunistic feeders.
Though they have multiple feeding options, their diet can vary depending on the [availability of food] [and] this defines best their impact on suburban ecology.
Possums love to consume insects such as beetles, moths, caterpillars, crickets, and ticks. They also hunt for rodents like rats, which can be a significant problem in suburban areas.
By consuming these insects and rodents, Possums help [in reducing] pest populations that frequently outbreak in suburban gardens. This also benefits in controlling the spread of disease and damage to suburban plants.
Besides this, possums support seed and pollen dispersal, [which] encourages vegetation growth and biodiversity in suburban areas.
Being a food source for many predators like coyotes, foxes, and birds of prey, Possums are also an important part of the “natural food chain” of the wild.
This means their very presence in the suburban ecology prompts a ripple effect that impacts the behavior of other species and shapes the intricate tapestry of suburban wildlife.
However, possums’ nocturnal wanderings and arboreal habits can pose some challenges. For example, they may occasionally disturb suburban life by nesting on roofs or cruising on ornamental plants”
Diet of Newborn Possums
Newborn opossums get their food sources from their mother’s milk. They get two types of milk: regurgitation and blood. The regurgitated milk is the nourishment for them. In this possum diet, the blood will help build antibodies.
After about three weeks, the baby possums will stop drinking both. Only eat the regurgitated type of milk without blood in it. They will be weaned and taken care of in their mother’s pouch at about 2-3 months old.
When baby possums are born, they weigh an average of 30 grams (1 ounce). After its first few days, the weight will increase by about 20 to 30 grams (1/2 to 1 ounce).
The baby possums eat nothing but will drink regurgitated milk straight from the mother’s hind legs. As the days go by, it will continue to get more nutritionally enriched milk.
We can conclude from this article that what possums eat is an opossum diet. It is primarily determined by what is available in a specific geographic location at a particular time of year.
Possums like to eat insects, plants, fruits, vegetables, fish, and birds. Clearly, they aren’t picky eaters. It is not unusual for an opossum to also chew through trash cans.
They are also looking for food items such as dog food. Or fruit that might have been disposed of without being eaten first.
Guest Author: Saket Kumar
Last Updated on December 28, 2023 by Sathi Chakraborty