SpecialMythbusting Opossum Facts | Backyard Nature

What’s the difference between an opossum and a possum? Are opossums really disease-driven? Explore the myths and misconceptions about the misunderstood opossum with Wildlife Filmmaker Alex Goetz.

Transcript Print

Hi, my name is Alex Goetz and I'm a wildlife filmmaker and photographer.

When I'm not on location, I live here in, Northwest Ohio.

I'm fortunate to be just a short drive away from a globally rare ecosystem called the Oak Openings Region.

The Oak Openings Region is an amazing place that not only has these massive oak trees and oak savannas, beautiful wildflower prairies, but swamps too.

The Oak Openings Region is home to many unique species of plants and animals.

But today, we're looking for one particularly, misunderstood one and a personal favorite of mine, that can be found wandering throughout this region, as well as backyards and suburbs and cities.

Today, we're looking for the opossum.

Opossums have a bit of a bad reputation.

Fueled by some common misconceptions out there, I want to explore some of these myths and misconceptions with you and figure out what is fact or fiction.

First, let's clear probably, the biggest misconception out there before we dive too deep into others.

Is it opossum or possum?

While those are both animals with pouches, they're actually two different animals.

Opossums are the fuzzy white animal that roams around here in North America.

But possums without the O, are actually an Australian species more closely related to the kangaroo.

Opossums should be a welcome neighbor to your backyards.

While a lot of people view this animal as a nuisance, they actually provide some really important ecological benefits to humans.

Opossums are omnivores.

Meaning they will eat anything from plants, fruits, and nuts to bugs, small mammals and even roadkill.

As scavengers, they clean up the environment around them of deceased animals.

One of the best things about them though, they eat ticks, a lot of them too.

It's estimated they will eat around 5,000 a year, which helps cut back on Lyme Disease in the environment.

A lot of people think that opossums are disease-ridden or have rabies.

It's actually really rare for an opossum to get rabies because opossums have a lower body temperature than other mammals here in North America.

Their bodies just aren't suitable habitats for diseases like rabies.

Some people might not think they're the cutest animal roaming through your yards and neighborhoods, but I promise you, they play a very important role in the ecosystem.

Opossums tend to be shy and want nothing to do with people.

So it's easy for people to claim they're mean, rabid or a nuisance when they run into one around their home.

But I hope that dispelling some of these myths and misconceptions of opossums has helped you understand and appreciate your wild neighbors more.