I had an email from a reader called Dottianne the other day, and she has rightly pointed out that the pictures of the possums over at my post called Strange Australian Back Garden Beastie Sound Explained are not, how can I break this to you, possums.
They are both “opossums”. Click the link above, check them out and then come back here and I’ll explain all.
What’s with the ‘O’?
Here’s the big surprise, well, for me anyway. The American possums are actually called opossums, scientific name, Didelphimorphia. But for some reason, they are more commonly referred to as possums, just like our native Australian species.
But our Australian possums are (scientific name) Phalangeridae. Both are marsupials, but that’s about it. Other than that, they are not really related at all. But I wasn’t the only one who was fooled by all this; there are still plenty of websites out there that claim possums and opossums are the same. They are not.
It seems that all the confusion was started by Capt Cook’s botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, who named the Australian animal a possum because it “looked like” the American opossum. Luckily, he didn’t travel north, otherwise our crocodiles would be called alligators.
The big difference though, for me, and you will not find this information in too many encyclopaedias or wildlife books, is that the American possum has pointy teeth and looks scary and the Australian possum is a real cutie. First, check out the two opossums on my previous post if you haven’t already, see above.
Now checkout my Australian Possum Parade, assembled following a raid over at flickr……Image above courtesy of andyroo64 Image above courtesy of Bedwetting in Australia Image above courtesy of ekai Image above courtesy of johnvw Image above courtesy of photolaps\ Image above courtesy of small Image above courtesy of wiccked Image above courtesy of wollombi
I still have my possum living somewhere in the garden. I hear him a lot, I see his pooh pooh a lot, but I very rarely see him. He is very reclusive. I’ve only ever seen him once and you can read about that experience in the same blog post that has the pictures of the American opossums.
Shame, I’d have liked to get to know him.
Oh, and just in case you didn’t check it out, here’s an American opossum…
Image Courtesy of AndrewKantor
Update March 2016
I’ve just been informed by Sam in the comments below that American opossums play dead when threatened. Sam wondered if Australian possums do the same? No, they don’t, they make a sound, you can listen to it on the following post:
Whose possums are the cutest?
Update April 2016
Just added a video post you may also like:
I live in Australia, in the sticks, and have several possums visit every night.
The Australian possums aren’t aggressive with humans, just each other. I get the impression that they are always less affectionate than opussums can become. They’ll reach the stage when you can pat and stroke them, even heavily but they don’t respond to it. Rather, they are indifferent to it, more interested in eating.
With most I can pick them up to move them, as long as they have something in their mouths. Otherwise they’ll mistake your hand for food. Their sampling bites are unforgettable.
Yes, our possums are friendly, that’s for sure, although they can be a bit shy. I know I have possums in and around my garden most of the time, because I can often hear them making that distinctive growling noise at night. Been here four years and have only spotted them twice, they seem to keep themselves well hidden.
They would probably be more forthcoming if I put food out for them, but I don’t want to do that, I also have a cat and think it’s probably best they don’t meet up.
Bob…. I need to know why our possums are so darn cute and look like they could be a pet and American opossums look like they are mutated???? (Not so cute and friendly looking) I feel it may have something to do with leading us into a death trap??? Thoughts????
Well, yes, I think I know where you’re coming from. The cone snail, for example, looks quite pretty but can kill you, so do cute Australian possums have a dark side? This is Australia, after all.
I can assure you though that after doing extensive research going back through years and years of history, I can find no evidence of an Australian possum ever being responsible for the death of any human here in Australia.
Turns out they are ‘just’ cute, and that’s it. Even American opossums, despite their sometimes aggressive look, won’t kill you either.
So that’s at least something we needn’t worry about in these current uncertain times.
Do you have ticks? Opossum are a huge asset in the war on ticks.
Yes, we have ticks, not very pleasant at all. See…
Hopefully our possums are as good as yours in the fight against them.
Hi Bob! I found your site while searching to find out if your brushtail possums are resistant to rabies (or lyssavirus) the same way North American opossums are. I’m guessing they are not resistant. The NA opposum is resistant due to its low body temp & slow metabolism, but your possums appear to be far more active and they don’t play dead. So…just curious? BTW, opposum only look “ugly” when threatened. They’re very cute, very gentle. Inexplicably, they’re known often to befriend cats–a Google search will bring up many pix and stories. Thanks!
Fortunately for us here in Australia, we don’t have rabies, but we do have a similar thing, Australian bat lyssavirus infection, which as the name suggests, comes from bats.
Whether or not possums can get ABLI, I really don’t know, but it would be a very rare occurrence if one did I would think.
Like your opossums, ours can also be very friendly and a few people here have commented how they can sometimes get on with domestic cats as well. Despite my pictures, I do concede that some of your opossums can look cute at times.
Thanks for clarifying the difference between possums and opossums. I didn’t know.
When I was a kid, my brother and I found an abandoned baby opossum and adopted it. He was ugly and not fun to pet because his fur was so wiry, but he was also docile and incredibly affectionate. He could break out of any enclosure my dad built yet he always came home for dinner. He loved dog food and apple peels. Most of the time, their mouths are closed so they’re much cuter when they aren’t terrified. Our guy never bit us, even when he grew up and integrated with the other opossums in the neighborhood. He just got more shy while the rest of them became a little more trusting. It was funny how that happened.
I wish that there weren’t such a strong revulsion to American opossums as they really aren’t as fearsome as they are portrayed to be. Hissing is their primary way to defend themselves. They are more likely to play dead, which is actually them passing out, than they are to bite. That said, I wouldn’t try to pick up a wild animal, even an opossum.
I didn’t know either, until I looked it all up 🙂
I think most people who live here in Australia regard our possums as quite cute and we don’t really see them as pests. Over in New Zealand, I don’t think they like their possums so much.
I have to say, most of the Americans who have posted here about opossums seem to like them, but I’m sure there are also plenty in the US who don’t.
Sounds like you had a lot of fun with your opossum when you’re a kid.
Just found this- I am living in the US in the south–Augusta, GA (that’s in the center of Georgia on the east side). I have an opossum that has seemingly lived under my house for longer that the supposed life span people are citing. But, he/she does have a bit of a charmed life for opossums. Lives in a sheltered place without a lot of temperature worries. I don’t have a dog. Lot of cockroaches to gnaw on. The opossum and my cats don’t bother one another. Incidentally, someone in my neighborhood also feeds a racoon that isn’t afraid of humans and begs for food on occasion. Sometimes at night I look out and see cat, cat and racoon laying on the grass a few feet between. Not bothering each other. Just hanging out, totally chill, like its nothing. And the the opossum will come out and walk along the fence looking for juicy insects… If animals have a comfortable enough life and the right personalities, they can just sort of be cool with each other.
Sounds like the wildlife are quite comfortable and happy underneath your house. Good to hear they are not trying to eat each other, and your cat sounds smart enough to realise that taking on the opossum might not go as planned.
I’m not sure what the raccoon is thinking, but let’s hope he keeps thinking it and stays chilled 🙂
I have medium-sized dogs (35-55 lbs). Through the years, they’ve all had interactions with opossums, almost always out in the open where they can’t back into a corner or wall to defend themselves. They just drop dead. They fool me every time and have fooled all my dogs as well. I just know, after years of this, that the thoroughly deceased opossum in the yard will vanish after I take my dogs indoors. Until my current crazy dog. He hunts rats obsessively (and catches them, too), has taken out several adult squirrels, and actually killed a young possum. I saw him circling the suddenly-dropped-dead youngster like the dogs always do, with “what the heck, it just died?” confusion. But I made the mistake of trying to call him off the little guy, and he picked it up and proceeded to shake it just like he’d shake any other critter to kill it, and despite the fact that their bodies are pretty flexible, he did, in fact, kill it. Made me sad because I love having them around, eating nasty garden snails and small rodents and whatever else.
Some dogs can be predators, and it’s not nice to watch, sounds like you’ve not been too happy about what’s been going on. Might be an idea to try and keep your dog away from the wildlife, that’s probably the only way to stop it happening.
I do hope you don’t have any young children under the age of 3 in your house, it would be a worry if you do.
Opossums aren’t normally dangerous to people and, anyway, I doubt that children under the age of 3 would be roaming loose in the yard unsupervised at any time, particularly when possums are out–and opossums aren’t given to attacking people of any age, so that’s not a worry at all. I just have a basic suburban yard surrounded by a solid 6-foot fence, so it’s always a surprise when something (other than the standard suburban critters such as roofrats or birds or squirrels) show up on my side of the fence. No good way to keep the dogs away from said wildlife if it decides to visit except by walking around the yard and checking under shrubs and stuff every time before letting the dogs out, and that’s just not going to happen several times a day 365 days a year. I was just saying really that (a) I like opossums, (b) yes they really do play dead as a defensive maneuver and it’s usually very effective and (c) it’s not always effective.
I was talking about your dog being potentially dangerous to a young toddler, not the possums 🙂
A dog that attacks small animals can also be a problem to very small children, but it doesn’t sound like you have any of those around, so all good.
Oh! That’s funny. OK. No, I know lots and lots of dogs who attack small critters who have no hostile bone in their body towards people of any size. I guess one has to know one’s own dog well. Thanks for your responses.
If you ever want to find the truth about our Opossums, and their hiss is much louder than their defense mechanism, which is to play dead, you will find that we should treat the ones we have very kindly. They are a huge help in summer months, especially in the southern states. Many people here are under the assumption that they bite as their first state of defense, but they are wrong. Here is a link you could check out. https://citywildlife.org/the-truth-about-opossums/
Thanks for the link, and yes, I actually believe that ALL of our wildlife should be treated very kindly. They all have a part to play on this planet.
The exceptions, of course, are cockroaches, fire ants, mosquitoes and cane toads. The world would be a better place without those critters for sure.
Clearly there’s been a mixup. Australia is supposed to get the crazy animals that want to kill you. Why did we get Australia’s possum?
That’s a good point. Even a cute koala can claw your face off and a kangaroo can knock you out. But possums, they really are harmless.
How did they get to be in Australia? Never thought of it, thanks for bringing it to our attention.
Aussie here. 110% agree Possums are awesome and cute. Although….. “Harmless”? They are not. Seen a house pet or two on the wrong end of a possum fight. Doesn’t happen too often, but a Possum can do some significant damage; even to a person. Having said that, caring for a lost bay Possum – snuggled up safely inside a pillowcase with as much banana as it wants – is an awesome experience.
Yes, true, they are wild animals after all. As you say, it is rare, but it can happen. I’ve heard them growl at night protecting their territory, as most of us have, that’s scary enough for some people 🙂
You put up SUCH an incriminating photo of the glorious North American Opossum. They are harmless creatures and precious!!! All they do is try to eat your trash which is fine with me. They are so cute and precious and that pic is straight up messed up. Thank u, next
I think the opossum in the picture incriminates himself, all I did was put the picture up. 🙂
Opossums are terrible. They kill and eat anything they can. Kittens, chickens, baby squirrels, etc.. the skunk you smell at night is usually an opussum that was sprayed by a skunk. The only good thing is they kill ticks. And they taste delicious
Had a similar comment made by Hairfish a little bit below about opossums allegedly eating kittens. It may actually be a case of cats attacking opossums or opossums just eating kittens that have already died having been abandoned by their mother.
Anyway, do you barbecue them and put them in bread, or is it a sort of roast dinner thing?
The Aussie possum IS cute as all hell, but American opossums are also quite cute when you don’t purposefully choose a super biased scary photo. Plus, opossums get such an unfair bad rep!! https://blog.nwf.org/2017/06/opossums-unsung-heroes-in-the-fight-against-ticks-and-lyme-disease/
Ok, after reading more comments, I now know to expect a playfully “innocent” reply because you damn well know, you opossum troll!! ??
This has been an educational rabbit hole to stumble down, and for good measure…. ?
Brie, these are flat out the two best links to pages about opossums that have ever been posted here, with respect to some of the other posters 🙂
I was certainly impressed to hear that they help fight against ticks and Lyme disease, but the second link easily bettered that. It has got 24 of the cutest opossum pictures I have ever seen.
I have 2 Virginia Opossums underneath my trailer. Mom and her little one. I cook them dinner every night. 1 year ago,. I saw her sneak out of my trailer. She looked like death. Now she looks beautiful and healthy… They are my little sanitation engineers. They also have a very sad life. They barely make it 2 years. If they do live, they might live another year. If she lives 2 xtra months it was all worth it to me…
Two years, that’s not much is it?
I looked it up for our Australian possums, and I am told that a brush tail possum can live in the wild here for up to 13 years. So there is another difference between our possums and your opossums.
Yup, They’re rather short lived for a mammal that size. 1-2 years in the wild, or if kept as a pet they’ll live about 4 years, maybe 5 or 6 if they’re lucky and well cared for.
Aw, you picked a positively unattractive picture of an American opossum. In reality, they can be, well, sort of cute. They’re also a really important part of our ecosystem here and way underappreciated.
Exhibit A: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzRN1kxMNDg
Cute, yes, kind of, but what is that lady thinking allowing opossums in her bed? Crikey, they are not that cute 🙂
Thank you! This article sounds completely biased 🙁 American possums definitely are cute little buggers
Me? Biased? As if 🙂
Thank you for the clarification on Australian possum. Looking at the fur and arms it occurs to me that may years ago this animal developed from a Koala or visa versa?
I asked Google. I was told that koalas and possums are both mammals in the group the Australasian order Diprotodontia. They have similarities with their teeth and toes. That, I believe, is the extent of their relationship with each other.
I don’t think either develop from one or the other, but it’s a great theory though and I suppose if you go far enough back in the evolutionary chain, didn’t we all evolved from tadpoles in the sea or something? 🙂 🙂
Although the American ‘possums and Australian possums may sound alike, when written the apostrophe should always be used to indicate the missing letter. Regrettably, many people don’t think about this, or live in an area where the animal has been called ‘possums for so long they don’t even realize it’s actually “opossum”.
That makes sense, but I have to say, the debate about how Americans say or write the name of this animal makes me really happy that in Australia they are simply known as possums 🙂
You do realize that “called” is used to describe the verbalization of the word right? The first “o” in opossum is silent.
So it’s not that opossums have been called possums for so long, rather that opossums have been called opossums but when spelling the word people forget the “o” at the beginning.
Do y’all eat your possums?
No, we don’t, but…
…it’s a little bit different in Tassie.
American opossums eat kittens. We just rescued a week-old kitten whose three siblings were killed by an opossum, despite dry catfood being readily available (and often raided by said opossum) in the garage. My son had to clean up the remains. They are not neat eaters.
Interesting, here is one scientific researcher who disagrees with you though…
When I googled it, I found websites suggesting that it’s actually cats that attack possums. Maybe there’s a gang war going on? A bit of tit for tat?
maybe the other Kittens “perished on their own” because the Mother Cat was not around; Possums eat the “remains of animals’ Possums do not “hunt kittens”; like Skunks Possums eat Bugs + Grubs”;
Bob, you are not being fair to the American Opossum. They are cute and they only look like the picture you show of them when they are backed into a corner. That is their only defense. Most of the time they freeze and act as if “you can’t see me”. They are mild mannered most of the time and are quite beneficial to our environment here. They eat snails and slugs and all kinds of creepy critters. I agree, Australian Possums are much cuter on the normal cuddly cuteness meter, but our Opossums have their fans.
You do have a point, many others have said the same thing, and I will admit to being a little harsh on your opossums. However, ours are undoubtedly cuter, as you yourself have said, and the proof can be found in Google images.
Just Google ‘opossum’ and then click on images, and look at all the pictures. If it looks cute, click on the image and it will almost certainly be Australian. If it looks scary, or pointy teethed, or not so cute, click on it and it will be American.
Look really hard at enough pictures though, and eventually you will find an American opossum that could be classed as just about cute. On the other hand, the opossum I have chosen to represent America is scary as.
Nobody said life was fair Diana 🙂
I am a fan of our possums. Although I don’t want them living in my ceiling, I love the fact they are around and in my yard. They eat unwanted rodents as well as fleas and ticks. I have caught them eating my cats food outside with my cat not to far away just laying down watching him. Did not look threatened at all. Never aggressive!! Of course unless cornered!! That’s my experience and I thank God that I’ve had the opportunity to witness them just living with my own eyes. There is so much more in the world to hate. Leave God’s creatures alone!!!
Our “Girl” us the sweetest and coolest thing. She thinks she is HUMAN! Lol. I have had her since before her eyes were open and she about 8 month’s now, and huge.
In a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania I had left a basement window open for my cat to have shelter while I was away. An American possum (opossum) came in and ate 10 pounds of cat food I had left out and then deposited the results all over my concrete floor. When I figured out what happened I fashioned a pole with a noose and dragged him into a bucket and removed him. It was one of my scariest experiences. He bared teeth and hissed in a manner that was not one I wish to repeat. If he had a chance I would have been shredded. Playing dead as in your article was not what I saw.
Typical, just when you want them to play dead, they get all gnarly! You should have taken a photograph of it, I could have added it to my scary opossum pictures.
Glad to hear you got it out in the end, your poor cat must’ve been starving.
Actually, for the most part Opossums are just bluffers. They don’t tend to be as vicious as people claim – they’ll show their teeth and make a lot of scary noises, but the likelyhood of one actually attacking you is very slim. Also, they’re quite resistant to rabies, so you have even less to worry about when encountering one. They’re honestly not as bad as their reputation might show.
I included a picture of a baby opossum I found in my yard once as my post’s attached website. Sometimes they can be quite cute 🙂
Yes, I like the picture, it is actually one of the cutest opossums I’ve seen. Thanks for sharing and if anyone else wants to look at it, just click on Maxwell’s name.
Lol.. it’s crazy to say the name Opossum is pronounced with a silent O.. Not true. Some people are simply lazy speakers and drop the “O”. Our American Opossums are a little reclusive and actually adorable. I see that you have picked the ugliest, scariest picture of an Opossum you could possibly find.. why I can’t imagine 🙂 but shame on you. We love watching them walk across the top of our fence to feast in our fig tree in the summertime evening hours.
As if I would deliberately pick the ugliest, scariest picture of an opossum just to prove my point 🙂 🙂 I am beside myself at the thought.
And I see you are not buying the silent ‘O’ theory put forward by Kevin below either, I have my doubts too as does Вася. Bill Hall, it seems.
Kevin, we need more convincing, what can you give us? 🙂
BobinOz.. Yes the correct pronunciation is O’possum.. with the O sound. But with lazy speaking the O has fallen away. It is not a silent O.
And yes, that is a gnarly nasty photo of this animal. They are actually quite docile and generally keep to themselves. They do open their big mouths when they feel threatened but will flee whenever possible.
But I agree, they are not very cute, resembling a huge rat. Whereas Australian Possums are quite adorable.
Yes, my opossum picture is rather scary, but I think with American opossums it’s that longer sharper nose that makes them look rat like, whereas Australian possums seem to have a softer rounder face.
I agree with your pronunciation, no point in having an ‘O’ otherwise 🙂
You need more convincing…
To support my position, I don’t think you need to look further than the third paragraph of this very article:
“What’s with the ‘O’?
Here’s the big surprise, well, for me anyway. The American possums are actually called opossums, scientific name, Didelphimorphia. But for some reason, they are more commonly referred to as possums, just like our native Australian species.”
So to recap:
1) American “possums” are actually called opossums (spelled with a leading “O”)
2) In the US, even though it is spelled “opossums”, they are more commonly referred to as possums. That is, when the word is written, the “O” is included, like: “opossum”, and when the word is spoken, it is pronounced as “possum”, as if it had no leading letter “O”. When a letter is written in a word, but that letter is not pronounced, it is common to say that letter (in that case) is “Silent”.
This does not mean there is any reason or rule in the English language that says it should be silent. For example, there is no rule that for a word with a leading “O”, or a leading “O” followed by a “p”, that the “O” should be silent.
It is just the case that in use, when the word is spoken, the “O” is not spoken so it is silent.
Of course there are exceptions… some people in the US, both write it AND say it (without the “O”) as “possum” (even though it should be written with the “O”), and some people in the US, both write it AND say it (WITH the “O”) as “opossum” (even though it should be spoken without the “O”).
In some respect, these could be regional variations (some say toma(y)to some say toma(h)to / some say pota(y)to some say pota(h)to).
Well, it’s hard to argue with that, after all, you have now covered all possibilities.
Anyway, I think it’s obvious, it should be toma(h)to and pota(y)to 🙂
The animal we in the U.S. refer to as an Opossum got it’s name in the 1600’s from the Algonquin word, aposoum. Then in the late 1700’s, a naturalist with Capt. James Cook spotted an animal in the Australian area that he thought might be in the Opossum family, hence the Australian Possum.
These comments are indeed becoming a wealth of knowledge about possums and opossums. Thanks for this Merrill, I obviously never knew, but I do now.
In your article regarding the American possums/opossums you say:
“But for some reason, they are more commonly referred to as possums, …”
That is not entirely correct. The American version (as shown in the not so cute picture) is always referred to as an “opossum”, but, the “o” should be silent. It is always spelled with the “o”, but it is pronounced as though it didn’t have the “o”, like “possum”. Some people do pronounce the “o”, but the vast majority don’t.
As was mentioned by others, the American opossum can be cute looking in the right circumstances. Even so, I’d say the Australian possum is much cuter.
This is a very interesting suggestion Kevin, but one I would take issue with. Just a few comments below, Simpleman refers to ‘possums’ in the written form, yet he appears to very much be from the USA.
Maybe some people do drop off the ‘o’ in the written form? I certainly agree with you on your closing comment though, Australian possums are much cuter 🙂
If Simpleman is still around, maybe he can confirm the written form in the US? Simpleman??
Posted correct pronunciation under William C. Hall or Вася, in Russian. (American, but Slavic linguist)
“uh POSS um” In latest transliteration (simple, not IPA)
You seemed to have put an unattractive picture of the North American Opossum. There are plenty of much cuter pictures. Yes, they have a pointed snout and pointed teeth, but are basically harmless.
Are you suggesting Sherry that I have deliberately sought out ugly photographs of North American opossums simply to win my argument? I am beside myself at the very thought 🙂
Possums and opossums (or would the plural be “possa” and “opossa”?) can look cute … until they relieve themselves in your vehicle during relocation. My friend Mike and I trapped a possum in Tasmania a couple of years ago (well, the overnight trap did the trapping, Mike just covered the trap with a tarp and put it in the back of his van) and took it 10 km up the road to a park. The possum seemed happy enough to be released, but let us know it was not happy about the car ride! Cute? You be the judge!
Sounds like the possum was a little bit nervous 🙂
In North Carolina USA they are abundant,and many live in the woods around my house,,,I’ve learned over the years through interaction with them,feeding them they seem to show up around the same times every night,I talk to them like one would talk to there dog and I name them,fact is they are great animals,they warm up to you quickly and respond to there name being called,,sadly one night one was hit by a car and it somehow knew to trust me and it came to me for help,I woke up to find it clinging to life on my porch laying against my door,I immediately got it medical help but it died that same day,,,,that taught me alot about this animal,and about all wildlife,,,,there not just dumb stupid animals,,,
Wow, it does show you that some of these animals are much smarter than we think. All wildlife is precious, except, of course, mosquitoes, cockroaches and cane toads 🙂
Well, don’t forget that swallows eat mosquitos and swallows are, well, just plain lovely. Not sure about cane toads, but cockroaches — at least those I’ve encountered in North America — are excellent for target practice with shoes, coffee cups, and for the closet sadist, a large piece of newspaper to cover them, followed by a book. I’ve seen, in a zoo setting, the cockroaches they have in the Amazon jungle and realize they actually have another name: birds.
The American poet Ogden Nash put it finely: “God in His wisdom created the fly / And then forgot to tell us why.”
I believe cane toads have come close to causing road accidents as people swerve to hit them 🙂
Swallows are indeed beautiful, I think I read somewhere that they eat every 20 seconds and they can spot a mosquito midflight and swoop to gobble it up. Unfortunately swallows are not so much fun when they nest in the eaves of your house in the swimming pool area; I know, it happened to me recently.
The family just gets bigger and bigger and you can’t toilet train them. Makes the swimming pool less attractive.
One year, caterpillars caused road accidents in Manitoba. I forget why, but they went forth and multiplied to a great degree that year and covered the roads. We were driving through the province on the Trans-Canada Highway at the time and I remember the delightful squishing sound they made as we drove through them. As for the swallows, the previous owners of our house had built bird houses on the second story and the swallows keep coming back in the spring — which is nice — although, as you pointed out, the area underneath the bird houses can be uninhabitable.
That’s the thing about swallows, they do keep coming back in the spring, and they always like to come back to the same place. This is great if you want them to come back each year, but not so good if you don’t, which I didn’t, what with it being the swimming pool area.
I got rid of them according to Queensland government guidelines, which is to wait until all the birds are able to fly, so no chicks still nesting and certainly no eggs in the nest. That’s when you are allowed to take the nest down.
I then had to block off the eaves so that they couldn’t rebuild it, but boy did they try. They tried sticking mud to the side of the wall to build a nest, of course that didn’t work. It must’ve been fully two or three months before they actually gave up trying to live in my swimming pool area and I’m sure they now happily live somewhere else.
I’m not discounting them coming back again next spring to have another go though.
Where it says “Who’s Possoms are the Cutest?” it is meant to say “Whose Possums are the Cutest?” Whose is the possessive version and who’s is the contraction, who is.
Mr Webster is that you? My old English teacher? Good Lord, it’s been a while!
If you could just check the grammar on all my other pages, it shouldn’t take too long, there’s only about 1500 of them so far, that would be great. All grammatical errors are a stain on my character and must be eliminated. An error in a headline is like a corked bottle of wine, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I will correct this error immediately.
Seriously though Smart man sorry, thanks for letting me know, I appreciate it 🙂
Didelphidae – Overview
American Opossums and Opossums
Haha here’s another one, a baby opposum got caught in our dryer vent and was crying so I picked up up by the scruff and it straight up climbs up my arm straight to my shoulder, stopped, looked at me like Thanks! And then jumped on my back and staid there…my mom freaked out she’s all screaming for my older brother, Sam has a opposum on her back! Get it ! Get it! My brother walks up and goes shoo. And it jumped down and scampered away. It was sssoooooo cute those, I tired to get my mom to let me keep it but she said raising one opposum per life time is enough for her XD
Nice story, but it sounds like not everyone in your family shares your love of opossums 🙂
I love all these stories about possums.
I nursed and raised a baby possum that fell off it’s momma’s back when a dog was chasing her. When he was big enough I carried him back to the woods and he took to the wild like he knew exactly what to do. That was in Mississippi when I was nine back in the 1950s. After that it was all sorts of wild animals that “needed rescuing” or not, hundreds of snakes, even an alligator (he was way too big and wasn’t about to be tamed). My parents were great.
Now, in south Louisiana where I live, the woods behind my house supplies my yard with plenty of wild friends. Every couple years young possums manage to find a way inside my house and catching them in a humane wire cage is a nasty, stinky situation if they get upset.
So, HERE’s a TIP: I devised a trap using a tall 5 gallon rectangular plastic bucket with a push on lid and a round 1 gallon plastic bucket. I cut the bottom out of the small bucket and a matching hole in the lid of the 5 gallon bucket, together and glued it barely into the top. Do a neat job so there’s nothing for them to grip.
Now, just barely balance this on its side on top of something flat like a box. Lean something against the box for them to climb (I use an old grill) and put little pieces of bait leading up and into bucket contraption. Skin from a roasted chicken works great. Throw some bigger pieces scattered to the back/bottom of the bucket.
He will go in, the bucket falls upright and the contraption is too tall and smooth for him to climb out. He’ll probably finish eating.
Pick the bucket up and tote him to the woods, take the lid off, pick him up by the tail that will be sticking up, set him down and shoo him away.
If he has gotten upset pooing, peeing and stinking, you’ll have to take the lid off and dump him out. He probably won’t come out voluntarily.
Hose and soap the bucket out and reset, because you’ll probably catch up to 6 or 7, his brothers and sisters.
No stink, no mess. Well, not as much anyways.
Oh, one other thing I do, since I’m an artist I have acrylic paint handy, so I drip a few drops of bright paint on the back of its neck or shoulders (it’s like face paint and doesn’t hurt them). If one comes back marked with paint you’ll have to haul him to the other side of the river.
Nice tip, but here in Australia in many of our states and territories, it is illegal to relocate a possum. I’m not sure if it’s the same for your opossums, but our possums are very territorial and if you capture one and move it to another area where there is already another possum, they will end up fighting.
Possums here are a protected species and if you do remove one from your house, here in Queensland for example, you must release that possum within 25 metres of where you caught it. The advice here is to build little wooden nesting boxes in your trees to help the possum resettle and block off any entry points into your house or roof.
I raised an opposum and the picture you put up is the absolute WORST representation of an opposum I’ve ever seen, I wish I could post a picture but your site doesn’t allow it! Opossums can defiantly look like that if they are scared or cornered, but if they are regulars at your cat food dish they can be very beautiful, calm, loving creatures they take care of their babies like good mommies, they’re beautiful but the pic you put up is a very poor representation of the opposum! (Incase anyone is curious about my opposum raising story: When I was young, a opposum got run over in front of our house, one baby survived on her tummy, we raised it by bottle/hand, we had to wear thick work gloves to hold him but he was a good pet, he ran anyway one day during mating season and never saw him again, we tried to keep him as wild as safely possible so he could return one day, and I guess he chose that day)
Yes, it is a quite rotten picture, scares me every time I look at it 🙂 I’m sure you do have a much cuter picture of an opossum and if you want to send it to me, I’d be happy to put it online for you. You can get my email address from my contact page.
As your opossum ran away, does that mean they are not territorial? Our Australian possums like to stay put and guard fiercely against other possums trying to encroach on their area.
Actually there are many variants of American Opossums (from central and S America,) that look far similar to the Australasian one than the “Virginia Opossum,” common in N America. Derbys wooly opossum (a few wooly ones actually,) and the philander opossum (in some pics) look very cute and definitely easier to see the confusion of Capt Cook’s fella. Check em out yourself…
Yes, I did check them out for myself on Google images. Derbys wooly opossums were quite cute, I’ll give you that. Wasn’t quite so convinced by the philander opossums though, a few of them did look a bit menacing.
Thanks for the info.
Opossums don’t actually play dead. Lol. They get scared and their central nervous system shuts down and they just fall over and they don’t even know it happens. Lol. They love persemons and are the only animal that is very unlikely to contract rabis because their body temperature is too low for the virus to survive. They are also nocturnal and are north Americas only marsupial and love to hang from trees upside down by their tail.
That may, or may not, be the actual explanation, but if you Google ‘opossums play dead’, then you’ll see that’s what many people seem to think they are doing. Glad to hear they are unlikely to get rabies though 🙂
Very similar to possums here in oz that get shocked and their central nervous system shuts down. I only know now after nursing several back to health from “death” that it is shock and they can be wRmed back to life. I love them ?
I agree. The picture misrepresents these animals.
We need to be more understanding of the animals we share the planet with.
These animals are very important and misunderstood. Like wolves, beavers, coyotes, and other animals who play important roles in maintaining a healthy eco balance.
Possums, our public enermy number one, at one stage estimated at 60,000,000 in NZ, the biggest theat to our bird life, mostly our large collection of flightless birds. Now after millions of tax payers money, we are finally making inroads into controlling and Hopfully one day eliminating this pest ounce and for all. But the most enduring argument about possums in NZ is, when the family is traveling on our yearly pilgrimage into forests and beaches and mountains of this country is ” when you run over a possum” dose it make a din din sound, or a don don sound…..silly really, of cause it makes a din din sound.
ps If you Aussie’s want your “cute” possums back….more than welcome to them.
I just don’t get it! We want to save orangutans, Sumatran tigers, etc etc but our own unique marsupials we see “nuisances”. I so don’t understand the hatred of marsupials who were here so much longer than we were! I rescue them and they are so sweet and loving, unless you try to hurt them if course
Well, I have to say, 60 million is a lot of possums. I understand NZ has now halved that number with possum control, and I think that’s understandable. Possums are cute, and we do (generally speaking) love them here in Australia, but if there are way too many of them then they can become a pest.
I believe we do have some kind of possum control program going on in Tasmania, so maybe it’s a lush green smaller island problem. I will take your word for the sound they make when you run one over, I certainly won’t be testing your theory here.
Din din indeed!
Ok send em all back and then you can have all the bugs they kill instead, itll be nice to be eaten alive by bugs once they’re all gone, enjoy your trip then!
Disagree. Your possum looks like it wants to take me to fraggle rock and teach me black magic. Our opossums are hearty, gentle beasts that are too good for this world and live to eat ticks and bite fascists.
I can’t argue with that, your opossums win. Cute looks are overrated anyhow 🙂
Technically it is summer here in Canberra and my semi-resident possum should not be too much in evidence. The “technically” is getting in the way and P3 is spending a lot more time around the back verandah and snoozing in the sun parlour. I think he has developed a communication channel to me now. I am house bound now as I am in the terminal stages of cancer and tend to wake at night, especially when several kilograms of possum goes scampering along the deck. I then look out through the insect screen door to see a face peering in at me. OK, message received. Later when daylight arrives, my wife will rise to make coffee for me to wash down my morning pain killers, find a nice juicy carrot and offer it to our tenant. This is usually accepted gracefully in those delicate little hands, breakfast is taken in bed and then he/she goes to sleep till dusk when a light supper of dried fruit is available. I think the possum has a better life expectancy than I do.
Yes, they are not very light on their feet, are they? I have a tin patio roof and when they run across that in the middle of the night, it sounds like thunder. P3 has been around for some time now, clearly he is getting very used to you and by now he probably thinks it’s his house, not yours.
So sorry to hear of your condition, your situation sounds quite bleak. But you raise an interesting question, so I decided to look into it and have found another fascinating fact when comparing possums with opossums. According to the wonderful people on the web, our Australian possums usually live for six or seven years, maybe as long as 13 years. The American opossum lives for only between two and four years.
P3 may possibly outlive you, but the possum definitely does not have a better life expectancy the you do on the basis that I’m pretty sure you are older than 13 🙂 Keep fighting, Bob
Yes, P3 has been around for a couple of years now. Survival is probably based on being a far more cautious animal than P1 or P2 ever were. There was never a face off between P3 and Susie (19 year old moggy) but now that S has gone to the great fridge in the sky Jai does not seem to be interested in wild life. The only interaction is a glance at each othet through the glass, then turn away and go about their business.
Sounds like a zoo where you are 🙂
Of course it’s like a zoo here. It’s Canberra.
Even though Aussie possums are much cuter than American opossums the american opossum is a gentle creature who eats ticks and is very quiet, they lived under my house for several years before I noticed them, and they are not aggressive although they look scary. Whereas when I lived in Sydney I was lucky enough to see lots of a very cute possum family who lived in my garden, not quiet but friendly and outgoing and even came into my house when given the opportunity – an open window.
Yes, whether it’s an opossum or a possum, they are certainly not aggressive, not to humans anyway. They can be quite fun to have around when you get to know them and they get to trust you.
I live in Bronx, NY and recently we have been seeing raccoons, skunks and opposums. The skunks are burrowing holes in people’s backyards and raccoons and the skunks are huge and rip up everyone’s garbage. I called animal control and was told that if we want to be rid of any of them that I would have to trap them or hire a trapper myself! What?!! I hope animal planet reads this and that someone addresses this. I can’t even tell you how many numbers I was redirected to just to reach out for help! Other states seem to have this issue resolved with just one phone call but not NYC where we pay through our noses for everything!! Just saying.
Sounds like a pretty shoddy service to me, general pest control must surely be included in the substantial rates that you are no doubt paying.
I hope you get it sorted, it doesn’t sound too pleasant.
It’s not a lot better in socal, when they get killed on the road it’s takes 3 days just to get them to go out and get it, if there is someone that feels they are in danger or one of their animals are, they better be ready to fight it off with a stick yourself cuz animals control isn’t going to get their asses out here to help till the next day, we don’t generally have to fight them off, they run away 99% of the time, lol one time my dog was barking at one and it was small and couldn’t lift the chain link fence to get out so I said Jackie stop and she did and it just stared at me all scared I walked right up to it and picked up the fence and it ran away no problem. Ive never had a problem with an aggressive opposum, but yea, the control problem isn’t much better here.
I was told at a very young age that opossums don’t “play dead” when frightened, but actually faint or pass out from fear. Anyone else know that?
I have had 3 experiences with babies being dumped by the mother near my home, and each time I got better and handling them and making a habitat. Each time I gave them to a “local possum lady” who cares for them and lets them go when they grow up. First of all, they seem to have different personalities, just like people. One might not play dead and will show you his teeth when you pick him up to move him (but they never bite), and another might go limp in your hand like he’s playing dead. The ones that don’t play dead seem to explore the habitat more as if they’re trying to find the way out; so they seem braver. The ones that play dead seem to snuggle under the others more and hide. All the ones that played dead “came alive” again almost as soon as I placed them in the habitat, and would even walk to the others as soon as possible. So it looked like they’re just faking it to me. If that happens pick them up with gloves and put them in a box or something, cut up fruit and place water, then call the local animal shelter. They have numbers for people like my possum lady.
Why did the chicken cross the Road?
To prove to the American O’Possum it could be done. That’s an original joke by me. I saw a headline about New Zealand getting rid of possums and could not figure out why or how opossums got there. If you had ever met that noxious creature in person with saliva foaming off those nasty teeth the smell would be the thing that stuck to you. Literally the stench sticks to you. They go beyond omnivorous all the way to carrion. That play dead thing is very convincing when they can smell the part as well as look dead. They have no natural enemies. Nothing will eat one so they are not really afraid of much. No need of fight or flight response. Just take a nap while any would be predator decides not to – stick around. Thats why they do not move out of the way of cars on the rosd. Their bite alone can cause an infection from their opportunistic diet. Their body temperature is too low to carry most diseases like rabies. But they can spread other diseases by eating out of pet bowls.
Someone commented about the raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy. If you had ever had to disengage a baby duck pulled through chicken wire by a raccoon and realize it was still alive after being half eaten your outlook on giving a raccoon a weapon of mass destruction would get a very serious reconsideration. Raccoons are carriers of rabies. Which means they can spread it without actually getting sick.
If you see a raccoon during the day, call animal control. It is sick and most places test for rabies in raccoons to keep track of cases and potential outbreaks. If you see raccoon or opossum in Oz, call somebody because you definitely do not want them running loose somewhere new.
Regarding crocodiles… we have both gators and crocs no worries on mixing them up on our account.
Currently the U. S. Is the leading importer of all things invasive. Case in point: kudzu, the plant that ate the south.
Great roundup of some of the nasty things you have in the US, but the possums in New Zealand are actually Australian possums, they are completely different from your opossums. For example, ours don’t play dead or stink.
Ours are cute 🙂
We don’t get raccoons here, but we certainly get crocs in the north. Whatever kudzu is, hopefully we don’t have that either 🙂
Bob – Kudzu is the USA’s answer to Lantana ‘cept no one asked the question. They are having the same problem with it that Queensland had with prickly pear. I know, I know, just don’t go down that line of thought.
Ah, pesky poisonous rampaging weeds, thanks for clearing that up.
That is NOT an original joke by you!! I’ve been telling that joke since I was a kid!
I can sense a lawsuit coming on 🙂
Hi. In some American dialects but not others, the “o” in opposum is just silent. So we will write “opposum” but say “possum.” It’s not exactly that the “o” is left off–it’s there, but not pronounced.
A bit like coffee in America really. It is on the menu, they just don’t seem to put it into the cup.
Iran across a link on american opossums and horse disease, http://www.aaep.org/info/horse-health?publication=752
They don’t run off the roof rats which are much bigger and more aggressive than norway rats, They certainly do make enough racket on the porch and roof. When i had 2 dogs, the dogs wanted no part of them, when they play dead they actually make themselves smell, ewww. I’ve only had to relocate a couple three this year. They make huge poops in our fenced in yard, and if caught in humane trap or get inside it’s poop pee city!! One time one got into my studio sleeping loft, and wouldn’t come out of hiding. My cat insisted on sleeping under the covers when it was there, i put down cornstarch baby powder to track his movements, the footprints lead repeatedly over the top of my cat and i – i slept with head under covers too during his home invasion. Finally it some how lodged itself between the screen and window glass and i wasn’t about to open the window and let it back in, so i had to get someone to go up on the ladder outside and cut the screen so it could escape. i relocate then on the other side of a river which has a bridge but it doesn’t seem they’ve figured out to get across the bridge and return. They are very adaptable and live almost everywhere, but short lived only a couple years.
I’ve had many pet rats, pedigreed siamese (markings like siamese cats) ones, imported from sweden with very sweet dispositions, rats can be very loving and intelligent. mine were in petting zoo at the fair, on tv with humane society handlers who took them as visiting pets to old folks homes and even hospitals to cheer people up. Unfortunately they only live 3 or 4 years. My original stud from sweden lived longer, maybe due to the fact her drank a bottle cap of brandy every day (the others prefered beer sometimes drinking at tolerant bars, one would go beep beep vocalized when she needed to go potty, she even washed her little hands and face in the sink) Opossums just don’t seem to have the kind of smarts that takes to domesticating. Well everything (almost) is cute as a baby, even us and opossums. Yeah down south i remember people eating them but only when really poor and hungry, people say they are greasy and not very tasty.. But then there are folks who eat raw fish sushi on purpose, If you see me eating sushi it will be on a lifeboat.
Where would rats get the money from to be able to buy brandy and beer? 🙂
A couple of my pedigree siamese rats were on TV (rats backwards are stars) humane society used them to cheer up seniors in nursing homes and hospitals. Others of my rats were popular at the fair in the petting zoo. They have about 14 babies and i sold them for 10 to 15 dollars each so they earned their keep.
Ah, moneymaking rats, thanks for clearing that up. Sounds like they have earned their brandy and beer 🙂
You’ve really only mentioned one type of possum. There’s more than 20 species in Australia. By far the most common in suburbia is the brushtail (just don’t tell the Kiwi’s they’re cute; in NZ they’re the number one pest in the country!), and on the cuteness scale the brushtail is a definite last. In suburbia the ringtail possum is also pretty common (and makes a more pleasant noise as well). You might post a few pictures of those for comparison….
Yes, I’d heard they don’t like possums in NZ and as you say, we do have even cuter looking possums than the ones I’ve pictured here. Maybe I will start a possum gallery 🙂
No!! Our American Opossums are adorable! That’s an awful picture dude, why don’t you try and find a normal one and not one that is in fear and scared. I take care of baby opossums and adult opossums at the wildlife center I volunteer for and they are the sweetest and completely docile. Maybe try to add more information about them on here???
Send me a picture of your cutest opossum and I’ll post it on this page, you’ll find my email address on my contact page, there is a link in the footer of every page.
I kind of like our North American opossums. They are cute in their own way, and while they can look threatening, they are not very aggressive at all and, besides their teeth-showing hiss, are good natured (on a related note: just be thankful you don’t have fishers that are reclusive, but common here in New England -they have a scream that makes you think someone is being murdered in the woods behind your house). Sadly, they only have a lifespan of about three years, so they mature and reproduce pretty quickly. Also you might find this interesting: opossum is an Algonquin word meaning “white beast”.
Mixed opinions about North American opossums then, some say cute, like you Johnny, and Bob below says ugly and dumb. Whoever that was that gave them a name that means “white beast” probably didn’t think much of them either 🙂
Apart from things like cane toads, cockroaches and mosquitoes, I think pretty much all wildlife is here for us to enjoy.
I’ve never heard of fishers, but when I was a kid all the cats in the neighbourhood used to gather on the shed roof of the old lady who lived next door at night time and make sounds like children being tortured.
Made it quite difficult for me to get to sleep, I can tell you.
I’m not going to look up a timeline of his travels, but its possible that Banks never saw an American possum in the flesh, I’d guess the best he would have seen would have been a taxidermied example, and at worst, one of those drawings in books by naturalists of the time, so that might explain why he thought there was a resemblance.
But this is speculation, for all I know he could have kept a family of the things on his estate in England.
Our opossums are actually quite cute and very similar to possums. Check out the photo on Wiki.
Ha ha, you think the Virginia opossum inhabiting a piano is cute? Or the hissing opossum? And the opossum “playing dead”? Well, each to his own I suppose, but I’m sticking with Australian possums being the cutest 🙂
No they arent. They’re ugly, dumb things, and they do stuff like crawl up in your walls and damage pipes. I had one do that this winter. Frankly. its a bit of a wonder they’ve manged to survive, raccoons out compete them on every front.