“The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.” -- Edward Abbey

Don’t hate them because they are ugly. Don’t hate them because they are creepy. Don’t hate them because they rummage through your trash. Plain and simple, don’t hate opossums. They are actually good to have around.

Opossums are the only marsupial found in North America. This means they have a pouch on their lower belly for infant development. The young will develop in the mother's pouch until they are old enough to venture out. They finish maturing as they ride on the mother's back. Then they go out on their own.

Opossums have 50 teeth, which is more than any other mammal in North America. Anyone who has gotten too close to the animal has seen those teeth, mainly because they will hiss at you when you get too close. This is just one of their defense behaviors. They rarely bite and would sooner play possum, their other defense, than tangle with a predator. When they play possum they just lie there not moving, hoping the predator will lose interest. They also have a prehensile tail they use for balance, grasping or hanging from a branch.

Opossums are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animals. They enjoy eating roaches and crickets along with mice and rats. They are also know to eat pet food that has been left outside. They will hunt both day and night, but mainly are found at night. It is also a rarity for them to carry rabies. It is also thought that they are immune to poisons from snakes. The existence of opossums dates back to the time of the dinosaurs.

If you have a problem with them in your yard there are easy ways to get them to move on.

First, you need to remove attractants. Clean up your yard. Avoid leaving pet food outside. Remove woodpiles they may use as a home and secure your garbage and compost areas.

Then you need to close off any areas the creature can use to get into your buildings or properties. You need to figure out what is attracting the opossum and remove that attraction. If they have no reason to be on your property, they will move on. There are even electronic devices you can get to repel this creature and many more. Lastly, proper fencing can be used to keep them out.

So just remember if you see a passel of opossums, some of them will be Jacks and some of them will be Jills, and they could have a bunch of joeys with them.

Columbus Animal Control Officer Shawn Flowers can be reached at sflowers@columbusne.us or 402-564-8839.

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