Chances are if you have seen opossums in your backyard ransacking your trash cans or climbing your fence. The questions you’ll ask yourself is:
- Do opossums bite humans?
- Can opossums transmit disease?
- Will opossums kill cats or any other pet I have?
You are right to ask yourself those questions because there’s so much an animal can do when provoked, and an opossum is one of them. In this post, we want to go deeper to help you understand if the possum is dangerous or when it can be dangerous to attack you.
Let’s get started.
Do Possum Attack Humans
Any animal, when threatened or cornered, will bite you, including the opossums. However, opossums are nocturnal creatures that avoid coming closer to humans. In other words, these creatures love to operate during the night and sleep during the day.
Besides, those opossums are way below the food chain. That means it will do whatever it takes to avoid predators like humans. In other words, possums won’t bite you unless you provoke them, which is familiar with animals.
However, that biting will be the last resort until it has exhausted all its biological defense mechanisms. Some opossum defense mechanism includes:
Hiss and Growl
When the creature feels it is under duress, it will hiss, growl, and show its 50 teeth to the attacker. The expression the animal gives is what makes people see it as dangerous. That’s because it seems ready for an attack. Unfortunately, the hissing and growling are a bluff. As we’ve said earlier, animal is afraid of humans. Hissing and growling is one line of defense the animal has.
Opossums will act dead when they come close to humans or other predators. They can do this for an hour. The opossum will play dead to avoid interactions with predators and humans. According to studies, this is a reflex action coming out of an opossum’s brain. You may not know that this is a reaction that even the creature itself has no control. A message is sent to the brain, which makes the animal go into shock.
The act of fainting or flopping to the ground is what people call playing dead. According to research, the creature can lay in that comatose state for up to 4 hours while just staring with its eyes half-closed.
The amount of time the animal will remain in this position will depend on the predator and the type of danger. When the stress is too much, the animal will be in that state for a long-time. While in that same state, the opossum’s front wheel will form into balls, and drool will come out of its mouth. The presence of foam will give you the impression that it has rabies.
Secret Green Fluid
Opossum smell drives humans and other predators away. The creature produces “a decaying smell” from its anal glands, which resembles a lot of green mucus. For instance, if the animal is dead and has a few predators who may still want to eat. The opossum will produce green mucus to discourage predators from coming close to it.
The foul smelly anal is meant to deceive humans and other predators to think its body is decaying. Most animal predators don’t have the appetite to eat a rotten dead animal. They’ll instead move forward and feed on better-smelling animals.
Although they are not the most beautiful animals in the universe, they have adapted well to ward off predators.
Also Read Foods That Opossums Eat in the Yard, Garden, and Wild.
Can Opossum Transmit Diseases?
Opossums transmit salmonella to humans. These bacteria are known to cause hospitalization and death in humans. A lot of people never realize whether they have caught salmonella or not. Fortunately, some will recover without hospitalization or treatment. You will only get the disease if you touch its feces.
Opossum carries different types of diseases. Some of the diseases are transmitted through urine and feces. The most accessible disease to catch from opossums is leptospirosis. The disease has flu-like symptoms, but it can cause kidney damage, meningitis, and death in some areas.
Salmonella, on the other hand, causes people to have diarrhea. The effect of salmonella is more severe in the elderly and children, with arthritis being a side effect. The opossum has a low body temperature compared to other animals.
What that means is, it’s resistant to many different types of diseases. But that’s not all, it also means that the animal can only carry a few diseases. The lower body temperature is part of the animal’s protection from snakebite venom and rabies.
Also read: How Opossums Transmit Disease Through their Poop and Urine
Can Opossums Harm My Pet?
Based on what we have stated above, opossums are way below the food chain. In other words, they can’t harm your pet. However, when cornered or forced into a fight, it will bite and run away. Biting is the last resort.
But that’s not all.
Opossums can transmit diseases to other animals or pets. Coccidiosis is a condition transmitted by opossums through feces, and it causes diarrhea. It’s believed that when animal smells or eats feces, they get diseases.
Like rabbits and hares, opossums also transmit Tularemia to other animals. The condition leads to lots of problems associated with respiratory issues, granular issues, and ulcers. If you feel your pet has contracted any of these diseases, it’s worth monitoring your pet and visiting a vet if the symptoms persist. Lastly, opossums are also known to be carriers of equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), transmitting the disease to a horse.
Is it possible?
Absolutely, Opossum can attack you and even transmit diseases such as salmonella to your family and pets. Like any other animal, you need to keep possum at bay.
You have to cut off their food source, including stale food in your backyard and anything that may attract those creatures. Ensure your property is clean, and the trash shouldn’t be left idling around. Most importantly, do everything within your means to keep these tiny creatures away. We know it won’t be easy, but it will take your effort and determination.