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Opossum

The opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is the only native North American marsupial. Marsupials are distinguished by their abdominal pouch used for carrying their young.

Once in your home an opossum can cause extensive damage. While nesting they bring food products that will collect and rot. They will also defecate and urinate.

Opossum carry diseases such as leptospirosis, tuberculosis, relapsing fever, tularemia, spotted fever, toxoplasmosis, coccidiosis, trichomoniasis, and Chagas disease. They may also be infested with fleas, ticks, mites, and lice. Opossum are hosts for cat and dog fleas, especially in urban environments.

Having an opossum removed from your attic or home is not a job for an amateur. Give us a call and we will send a licensed professional to solve your opossum problem.

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 Excerpt from a great publication:

Opossums
Ruthe Smith and Joe Schaefer

The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is an interesting animal ( Figure 1 ), though it can be a nuisance to man, a detriment to some wildlife, and has a name difficult to spell. True, they are not the cutest critters to ever to visit our backyards, but believe it or not, they are closely related to the adorable koala.DescriptionThe opossum ranges in size from 4 to 13lb (2 to 6kg), about the size of a house cat. The body is 15 to 20in (37 to 50cm) long, with a tail 9 to 20 in (24 to 50cm) long. Opossums have a cone-shaped head and a pointed snout ( Figure 1 ). Their overall color is gray--with slight variations. Opossums have a scaly, rat-like, prehensile tail they use with their opposable thumbs ( Figure 2 ) to grasp small branches and other objects. Opossums also have more teeth (50) than any other North American mammal.Range and Habitat Opossums inhabit most of the eastern country-region United States and can be found throughout Florida. Probably due to human activity, their range is expanding northward. They can exploit man-made structures for shelter and eat garbage and road kill.
Opossums use a variety of habitats: forests, grasslands, agricultural lands, and suburban areas. They are nocturnal (active at night), resting during daylight hours. Dens for daytime use include just about anything that provides shelter from the sun and poor weather. Opossums have been found in tree stumps, hollow logs, road culverts, attics, and even gopher tortoise burrows.FeedingOpossums are known as opportunistic feeders. They will eat many different items including bird eggs, chickens, moles, and earthworms, insects, snakes, grass, fruit, pet food, and garbage. Carrion (animals that are already dead) also is a favorite food item.ReproductionThe Virginia opossum is the only North American marsupial. Like other marsupials--such as kangaroos and koalas--opossums give birth to relatively underdeveloped young which then climb along the females belly to a pouch called a marsupium. Within the pouch, the young attach themselves to one of 13 milk-providing nipples and do not let go for about 60 days. The average litter size is seven. Opossums have 1 to 2, and rarely 3, litters per year during the period from January to July.Newborns are about 1/2 inch long (1.3cm) and weigh 0.0046oz (0.13gm). After they emerge from the pouch they often ride on their mother's back when she goes outside the den. Opossums are short-lived; a 3-year old animal is considered elderly.Playing PossumWhen threatened by a potentially dangerous animal or person, opossums usually hiss and snarl at first. If these defense tactics do not scare off the intruder, they may lie down, open their mouth, and remain "lifeless" for several minutes. This is where the phrase "playing possum" came from. Many predators do not eat animals that are already dead so they may leave the opossum alone if it appears lifeless.ImportanceIn the past, opossums have been hunted for fur, food, and because they were once thought to be significant predators to waterfowl. Opossums build up heavy layers of fat and the meat is considered too greasy for some tastes. Its use as food is generally more popular in southern states.Dead opossums can be seen frequently along highways. These animals are not fast enough to avoid high-speed cars, and vehicle collisions cause many deaths for this species in urbanizing areas. They also are prey to larger predators such as bobcats, coyotes, and domestic dogs.Although opossums are nest predators, there is no evidence to suggest that they have a detrimental impact on wildlife populations. They may be helpful in reducing venomous snakes and removing dead animals from human populated areas. Adult opossums are immune to the venom of copperheads, rattlesnakes, and cottonmouths.Opossums, like most other animals, are susceptible to infection by the rabies virus; however, very few rabid wild opossums have been documented. Extremely high doses of the virus have been required to experimentally infect opossums as they seem to be highly resistant to the disease. Even though they do not often carry rabies, opossums can still deliver a nasty bite.Nuisance ProblemsOpossums are called generalists because they will eat just about anything they can find. This can cause problems in areas where humans exist. Opossums will get into garbage cans; and eat pet food and cultivated fruits and vegetables. They may prey on poultry and their eggs, and enter homes through ripped screens or vent and duct systems.To alleviate these problems and keep the opossum outside where it belongs, you can fasten garbage can lids with a rubber strap or bungee cord from hardware stores, and repair or cover holes in screens or building foundations. Do not leave pet food out at night. If the problem is extreme, you can surround your gardens with electric fencing.
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Footnotes
1. This document is WEC28, one of a series of the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date June, 1991. Revised September, 2002. Reviewed September, 2002. Revised December, 2006. Visit the EDIS Web Site at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
2. Ruthe Smith, former wildlife assistant, and Joe Schaefer, Ph. D., urban wildlife specialist, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.
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Copyright Information
This document is copyrighted by the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) for the people of the State of Florida. UF/IFAS retains all rights under all conventions, but permits free reproduction by all agents and offices of the Cooperative Extension Service and the people of the State of Florida. Permission is granted to others to use these materials in part or in full for educational purposes, provided that full credit is given to the UF/IFAS, citing the publication, its source, and date of publication.

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