Maybe would agree opossums look like big rats that might carry disease, or perhaps you think they are super cute. However, it turns out they are tick killing machines that can eliminate over 90% of the ticks they encounter. Like cats, Opossums also groom themselves quite often and quickly eat any ticks found on their bodies.
A recent study found that of the six tick-eating animals tested (white-footed mice, chipmunks, squirrels, opossums and veerys and catbirds), opossums were the clear champions. A single opossum could consume over 5,500 ticks in one season!
Opossums are more remarkably resistant to disease and are habitually gentle animals, making them great garden friends and good neighbours to have. They are also rarely aggressive, and whats funny is that they will usually play dead when overwhelmed.
Here’s a great video that explains what opossums eat and why they might be excellent to have in your backyard:
According to Laura Simon, a wildlife ecologist with the U.S. Humane Society: “They’re one of the oldest species of mammal around, having waddled past dinosaurs. They eat grubs and insects and even mice, working over the environment like little vacuum cleaners. “They really eat whatever they find.” The only instance where you should avoid having one around is when you raise chickens because some people have reported witnessing Opossums attacking and killing their chickens in certain occasion.
What does this mean for the human population? Due to climate disturbance and other factors, tick infestation along with the diseases they can carry (over 15, including Lyme Disease), are spreading quickly. These tick-borne diseases are often hard to diagnose and treat, and many in the medical society speculate that there’s a silent epidemic of these illnesses, especially Lyme Disease. If experts can convince the public to let opossums go about their business and not kill them, these permanent populations could be a natural way to fight the spread of these devastating and now widespread illnesses.