It turns out that opossums are a lot more than a big, ugly rodent that scares easy in the headlights and gets in your garbage. Research from the Center for Biological Diversity discovered one incredibly useful trait of opossums – they eat an insane amount of ticks, about 4,000 a week.
Since ticks carry Lyme disease, this is a great benefit that opossums provide, especially in states with large deer populations, since they are the top carrier of ticks.
Opossums aren’t just one trick ponies either. They have several other interesting qualities, many of which will make sure they stay around to keep eating all those ticks:
- They have a near immunity to rabies.
- They can’t be harmed by the bites of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and other pit vipers.
- They have been around since the time of T-Rex and likely ate dinosaur eggs.
- Early settlers in the Jamestown settlement in Virginia described them as “beast in bigness of a pig and in taste alike.”
- When threatened they will involuntarily faint, seemingly dead. At the same time, they release the smell of a dead or sick animal. Their lips roll back, baring their teeth and saliva foams from their mouths. They may remain like this from a few minutes to four hours.
- They do not hang by their tails, as sometimes erroneously depicted.