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Opossums enter attics for warmth and safety. Once an opossum picks your attic as its home, it will stay there as long as it can. Opossums enter by climbing trees and gutters to get to the roof and then taking advantage of weak points in the roof, soffit, or eaves. In the attic, the opossum will nest and nurture a litter.  They create problems by dislodging sensitive attic structures, entering air conditioning vents, keeping the homeowners awake, and leaving a large mess of droppings / feces.

The opossum is the only marsupial in North America. This means the animal carries its young in a pouch, much the same as does the Australian kangaroo.  Once a female opossum mates, she gives birth a mere 13 days later to a litter of roughly a dozen baby opossums that are each no bigger than a honeybee. These tiny, blind, and naked babies crawl on their own all the way to their mother’s pouch. They each latch on to a teet from which they receive milk. They remain in the pouch for nearly three months. Once the young opossums leave the pouch, they’re still not ready to face the world on their own. For the next 10 to 15 days they go about clinging to mother’s fur. Eventually they become too heavy to hang on during these trips and one by one fall off. By the time this happens, the young opossum is fully weaned and able to forage for himself. 

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While many of us hold the opossum in about as much esteem as a sewer rat, turns out, we ought to be showing this particular urban trashivore a lil' more respect. Opossums may end up saving thousands of humans from deadly snakebites each year.

That's because scientists have just managed to synthetically manufacture a possum protein that's able to neutralize bites from the U.S. Western Diamondback rattlesnake and Russell's Viper from Pakistan. The researchers behind the breakthrough, who are presenting their worktoday at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, are hopeful that the antivenom will prove effective against a wide range of deadly serpents.

Worldwide, an estimated 421,000 people are bitten by a venomous snake each year. Roughly 20,000 of those bites are lethal, with the majority of deaths occurring in rural parts of India, Southeast Asia, Africa and South America, where access to treatment is limited. But possums, which eat snakes for lunch, shrug off the effects of these deadly venoms with ease. In the early 1990's, a group of researchers identified the specific serum protein in opossums that was able to neutralize bites. But until now, no one had followed up on that discovery and attempted to develop an antivenom therapy for humans.


By inserting the gene that encodes the possum's antivenom protein into the bacterium E. coli, a research team led by Claire Kornives at San Jose State University was able to re-synthesize the protein in the lab. In a press release, Kornives explains that her approach differs from how antivenoms are usually produced:

"Our approach is different because most antivenoms are made by injecting the venom into a horse and then processing the serum," says Komives. "The serum has additional components, however, so the patient often has some kind of adverse reaction, such as a rash, itching, wheezing, rapid heart rate, fever or body aches. The peptide we are using does not have those negative effects on mice."

The next step for the researchers will be see how their antivenom holds up against a range of toxins. They're optimistic that the serum will prove effective against many venomous snakes, and if we're lucky, it may even work against scorpions, as well as some plant and bacterial toxins.

Soon, it seems, we may all be able to carry a life-saving shot of possum serum with us wherever we go.

Source: http://gizmodo.com/

Opossums are cute, but also surprisingly tough. Image: Monica R / Flicker

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Only opossums that are sick, injured, or too young to be on their own (less than 7 inches long from nose to rump, not including tail) are in need of immediate asssistance.

If a young opossum is found then check the surrounding area. There may be more. Be very quiet and listen for “sneezing” sounds the young make to call the mother.

Do not attempt to care for the opossum yourself. In general, it is illegal to do so unless you are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. More importantly, you may cause the opossum harm or death if you do not know what you are doing.

This opossumis not dead. It is playing “possum”. 

Give a “dead” opossum the benefit of the doubt before disposing of the body. It may be “playing possum” as an involuntary response to a threat, in which the opossum becomes comatose in the face of danger and appears dead. This may last from 40 minutes to 4 hours. During this time, the opossum lies on its side, becomes stiff, the eyes glaze over, the opossum drools, the tongue lolls out the side of the mouth, and green anal fluid may be seen. This fascinating defense mechanism helps the opossum survive an attack from a predator because many predators give up the attack if they believe the opossum is already dead.

Leave the area and give the opossum a chance to recover and move on. The opossum will not respond to prodding or poking. When the opossum is about to recover, the ears move very slightly.

If you encounter an opossum that is injured or possibly dead please contact a Professional such as Rodent Solutions for rodent removal in your Sarasota and/or Bradenton Home and/or Office. - Call 941-704-0063

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Opossum Facts

Opossums are the only marsupial found in North America.  They live in many parts of the U.S., with the exception of the Rockies, western plains and parts of the northern U.S. Opossums usually live alone and are only active at night.

Habits
Opossums usually have two to three litters per year, with an average of seven young in each litter. Like other marsupials, the young spend their first several weeks of life in their mother's pouch. Opossums generally eat fruit, grains and insects, but will also eat out of compost piles, garbage cans and pet food dishes if they can get access.

Habitat
Opossums prefer environments near streams or swamps, but can live in diverse areas, ranging from arid to moist, wooded to open fields. They take shelter in burrows of other animals, tree cavities and brush piles.

Threats
Opossums sometimes den in attics and garages where they may make a messy nest. They can also destroy poultry, game birds and their nests. When startled, opossums can bare their sharp teeth and hiss, and in rare cases may bite if they feel threatened.

Opossum Prevention
Store trashcans and recycling bins indoors, or in sealed areas such as a locked shed or outhouse. If trashcans are kept outdoors, use animal-proof lids. Bring pet food dishes inside at night to avoid attracting wildlife. Remove other obvious sources of food and shelter from your property. Inspect the outside of your home for holes or access points, such as broken vent covers.

Source: www.pestworld.org

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Pity the poor opossum. The oft-maligned marsupial definitely suffers from an image problem — it is frequently perceived more as a giant, dirty, scavenging rat rather than a cute creature of the wild. But whether you love them or hate them, North America’s only marsupial has a set of unique characteristics that might transform aversion into affection.

But first, the burning question: is it opossum or possum? In 1608, Capt. John Smith coined the word opossum from the word "opassum," the Algonquian term meaning "white animal." In his notes, the captain wrote: "An Opassom hath an head like a Swine, and a taile like a Rat, and is of the bignes of a Cat. Under her belly she hath a bagge, wherein shee lodgeth, carrieth, and sucketh her young."

No one is quite sure how the opossum’s “o” was dropped, but it appeared in print as "possum" as early as 1613, and remains the colloquial term in many regions of the country. However, there are true possums – just not in the North American neck of the woods. Possums include any of several species (from the family Phalangeridae) of nocturnal, arboreal marsupials of Australia and New Guinea, and were mistakenly named in the 18th century when the naturalist from Capt. James Cook’s expedition wrongly called them possums after their North American cousins. Nonetheless, it's the Australian ones that hold the true scientific title of "possum" now.

Natural Immunity

Opossums are mostly immune to rabies, and in fact, they are eight times less likely to carry rabies compared to wild dogs.
Poison Control
Opossums have superpowers against snakes. They have partial or total immunity to the venom produced by rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and other pit vipers.
Omnivores Galore
Their normal diet consists of carrion, rodents, insects, snails, slugs, birds, eggs, frogs, plants, fruits and grains. They also eat human food, table scraps, dog food and cat food. They have an unusually high need for calcium, which incites them to eat the skeletons of rodents and road kill they consume. They're the sanitation workers of the wild.
Smart Critters
Although many people think opossums are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, there are several areas of intelligence in which they soar. For one, they have a remarkable ability to find food and to remember where it is. When tested for the ability to remember where food is, opossums scored better than rats, rabbits, cats, dogs … but not as well as humans. They also can find their way through a maze more quickly than rats and cats.
Pest Control
Since their diet allows them to indulge on snails, slugs and beetles, they are a welcome addition to the garden. Opossums also keep rats and cockroaches at bay by competing with them for food. In fact, it’s common for opossums to kill cockroaches and rats if they find them in their territory.
All Thumbs
The opossum has opposable "thumbs." The opossum's "thumbs" (called halux) are on its rear feet (so, technically they're toes), and abet the opossum’s formidable climbing skills. Primates and opossums are the only mammals with opposable first toes.
Impressive Tails
They have prehensile tails which are adapted for grasping and wrapping around things like tree limbs. The opossum can hang from its tail for short periods of time, but the creature doesn’t sleep hanging from its tail, as some people think. Opossums have been observed carrying bundles of grasses and other materials by looping their tail around them; this conscious control leads many to consider the tail as a fifth appendage, like a hand.
Good Pupils
The eyes of the opossum appear black, but what we are seeing are strongly dilated pupil; there is iris around them, it’s just mostly out of sight. The giant pupils are thought to be an adaptation to their nocturnal habits.
Smile!
The mouth of an opossum holds an impressive 50 teeth.
Natural Defenses
When threatened, opossums run, growl, belch, urinate and defecate. And when all else fails, they “play ‘possum" and act as if they are dead. It is an involuntary response (like fainting) rather than a conscious act. They roll over, become stiff, close their eyes (or stare off into space) and bare their teeth as saliva foams around the mouth and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from glands. The catatonic state can last for up to four hours, and has proven effective as a deterrent to predators looking for a hot meal.  And a bonus for the Scrabble players: Male opossums are called jacks and females are called jills. The young are referred to as joeys, just like their Australian cousins, and a group of opossums is called a passel.
Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
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Unlike the cliché, familiarity doesn't seem to breed contempt. It breeds indifference instead.

Why else would we take so little interest in one of the most fascinating of Alabama's wildife – the opossum?

That's opossum with an "o" and that "o" is important. To be technically correct, it's the Virginia – as in the State – opossum and that "Virginia" is important too.

The Virginia opossum got this common name from its Algonquian Indian name "apasum," meaning "white beast," and from the state where it was first given an English name in the early 1600's by Captain John Smith of the Jamestown Colony and Pocahantas fame.

The "o" is important because when British explorer James Cook, on his first voyage to Australia some 150 years after Captain Smith named them, encountered other cat-sized animals that nurtured their young in a pouch, his ship's naturalist erroneously assumed they were the same, or at least similar, species and called them opossums too.

It turns out that the Australian marsupials are not closely related to our opossums, so to prevent confusion, scientists now call all Australian species possums – no "o" -- to distinguish them from our opossums.

The "Virginia" is important because although we only have one marsupial species in the United States, more than 70 more species occur throughout Central and South America.

So in addition to our Virginia opossum, there are mouse opossums, slender opossums, water opossums, pygmy opossums, and woolly opossums, not to mention fat-, short-, thick-, and bushy-tailed opossums, plus my favorite -- four-eyed opossums.

They are all marsupials though -- animals that give birth to still developing embryonic pups and rear them for months in a pouch.

Virginia opossums are pregnant for only 12 days before giving birth to 10 to 50 of these pups, each about the size of a small bee or large ant. In order to survive, these deaf, blind, hairless fetuses have to crawl unaided the inch or so from their mother's birth canal into her pouch and find one of her 13 nipples.

As only 5-7 young are typically raised, many pups are lost along the way. For those lucky enough to find and attach to a nipple, their lips soon fuse together and for the next two months they remain fastened to that nipple 24/7. If dislodged, they will be unable to re-attach and will die.

Life is no picnic for an opossum pup.

By the time they are 3 to 4 months old, opossums have left the pouch for good and are on their own. Also by this time, they've acquired all those traits which make them such endearing creatures.

They have all 50 of their teeth – most of any American mammal -- which they use to eat your garbage, your pet's food if you leave it outdoors, or just about any food that won't eat them first. They have hind feet with opposable thumbs, and they are the only mammal native to the United States with a grasping prehensile tail.

Even as newly independent pups, they have all the intelligence they will ever have. What's that, you say? Opossum intelligence?

Yes, despite their undeserved reputation for stupidity and a brain that is only one-fifth the size of a cat's, opossums are better at remembering where food is hidden than are dogs, cats, or rats.

Opossums are probably most famous for "playing 'possum," that is pretending to be dead when threatened. Actually, as someone who has trapped, tagged, and released hundreds of opossums, I can say with some authority that they are much more likely to hiss, growl, and flash those 50 teeth than they are to collapse in a heap and play dead.

But for all their bluster, they are surprisingly hesitant to bite. They seldom bite pets and despite handling many, I've never been bitten, although not all my field assistants can say the same.

If this threat doesn't work, they may indeed keel over, drool, excrete foul-smelling liquid from their anal glands, and play dead.

They will continue to play dead pretty much regardless of what you do to them. Whether they really have fallen into some sort of opossum trance, fainted, or are just pretending, isn't clear. Electronic monitoring of their heart and brain activity shows no differences when they are playing dead compared to when they are normally active, so maybe they are just superb and dedicated actors.

One thing opossums don't have to play dead for is snakes. They are virtually immune to snake venom, thanks to a unique protein in their blood. So copperheads, water moccasins, and even large rattlesnakes are part of the standard opossum diet. Remember this the next time that you aren't bitten by a large rattlesnake. It's the opossum's form of public service.

Opossums need to get about the business of reproducing quickly – and they can do so as soon as 6 months of age -- because they won't live for long. For reasons that we don't understand they undergo a sort of accelerated aging, so that by the time they are 2 years old, they begin to show classic signs of aging such as wasting muscles, a declining immune system, and the development of cataracts.

Most wild opossums are actually dead before they are two years old and of more than one hundred I've put radio collars on and monitored throughout their lives, none has so far lived more than 3 years.

Despite these fascinating traits, opossums will no doubt continue to get little respect. I'm not sure why.

They do not carry rabies or other diseases that people need to worry about. With their long snouts, toothy snarl, naked ears and rat-like tail, they certainly fail the "cute" test.

Maybe it's no more complicated than that.

Source: http://www.al.com/

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A divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that bashing a mother opossum’s head in with a shovel is legal.

The court had to answer the question in a lawsuit filed by an Anaheim man who, along with his 12-year-old son, was arrested for allegedly trying to kill a critter in the manner described above. The mother opossum had been messing with their bulldogs, apparently.

No criminal charges were filed. Lorenzo Oliver, the dad, sued the police officers for wrongful arrest, lost in federal district court and then appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, in an Aug. 1 ruling first reported Friday by the Orange County Register, revived the lawsuit and said the police officers were not immune to liability.

“The officers had no probable cause to arrest C.B. and Oliver because the act the officers believed C.B. committed—trying to kill the opossum by hitting it with a shovel—isn’t a crime,” he wrote.

California law prohibits the intentional and malicious killing of animals, but “any animal known as dangerous to life, limb, or property” is fair game. Literally.

“The regulations do prohibit certain ways of killing animals, but hitting them with a shovel is not among them,” Chief Judge Kozinksi said.

Which is why Judge Paul J. Watford, in his dissent, said the police officers faced a tougher question than Chief Judge Kozinski supposed.

“Whether bashing a mother opossum on the head three times with a metal shovel is sufficiently egregious to constitute a malicious and intentional wounding is certainly debatable. But the very fact that reasonable minds could disagree is what entitles the officers to qualified immunity here,” he wrote.

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Pity the poor opossum. The oft-maligned marsupial definitely suffers from an image problem — it is frequently perceived more as a giant, dirty, scavenging rat rather than a cute creature of the wild. But whether you love them or hate them, North America’s only marsupial has a set of unique characteristics that might transform aversion into affection.

But first, the burning question: is it opossum or possum? In 1608, Capt. John Smith coined the word opossum from the word "opassum," the Algonquian term meaning "white animal." In his notes, the captain wrote: "An Opassom hath an head like a Swine, and a taile like a Rat, and is of the bignes of a Cat. Under her belly she hath a bagge, wherein shee lodgeth, carrieth, and sucketh her young."

No one is quite sure how the opossum’s “o” was dropped, but it appeared in print as "possum" as early as 1613, and remains the colloquial term in many regions of the country. However, there are true possums – just not in the North American neck of the woods. Possums include any of several species (from the family Phalangeridae) of nocturnal, arboreal marsupials of Australia and New Guinea, and were mistakenly named in the 18th century when the naturalist from Capt. James Cook’s expedition wrongly called them possums after their North American cousins. Nonetheless, it's the Australian ones that hold the true scientific title of "possum" now.

Natural Immunity
Opossums are mostly immune to rabies, and in fact, they are eight times less likely to carry rabies compared to wild dogs.

Poison Control
Opossums have superpowers against snakes. They have partial or total immunity to the venom produced by rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and other pit vipers.

Omnivores Galore
Their normal diet consists of carrion, rodents, insects, snails, slugs, birds, eggs, frogs, plants, fruits and grains. They also eat human food, table scraps, dog food and cat food. They have an unusually high need for calcium, which incites them to eat the skeletons of rodents and road kill they consume. They're the sanitation workers of the wild.

Smart Critters
Although many people think opossums are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, there are several areas of intelligence in which they soar. For one, they have a remarkable ability to find food and to remember where it is. When tested for the ability to remember where food is, opossums scored better than rats, rabbits, cats, dogs … but not as well as humans. They also can find their way through a maze more quickly than rats and cats.

Pest Control
Since their diet allows them to indulge on snails, slugs and beetles, they are a welcome addition to the garden. Opossums also keep rats and cockroaches at bay by competing with them for food. In fact, it’s common for opossums to kill cockroaches and rats if they find them in their territory.

All Thumbs
The opossum has opposable "thumbs." The opossum's "thumbs" (called halux) are on its rear feet (so, technically they're toes), and abet the opossum’s formidable climbing skills. Primates and opossums are the only mammals with opposable first toes.

Impressive Tails
They have prehensile tails which are adapted for grasping and wrapping around things like tree limbs. The opossum can hang from its tail for short periods of time, but the creature doesn’t sleep hanging from its tail, as some people think. Opossums have been observed carrying bundles of grasses and other materials by looping their tail around them; this conscious control leads many to consider the tail as a fifth appendage, like a hand.

Good Pupils
The eyes of the opossum appear black, but what we are seeing are strongly dilated pupil; there is iris around them, it’s just mostly out of sight. The giant pupils are thought to be an adaptation to their nocturnal habits.

Smile!
The mouth of an opossum holds an impressive 50 teeth.

Natural Defenses
When threatened, opossums run, growl, belch, urinate and defecate. And when all else fails, they “play ‘possum" and act as if they are dead. It is an involuntary response (like fainting) rather than a conscious act. They roll over, become stiff, close their eyes (or stare off into space) and bare their teeth as saliva foams around the mouth and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from glands. The catatonic state can last for up to four hours, and has proven effective as a deterrent to predators looking for a hot meal. And a bonus for the Scrabble players: Male opossums are called jacks and females are called jills. The young are referred to as joeys, just like their Australian cousins, and a group of opossums is called a passel.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Read more…

PLAYING POSSUM

The opossum is perhaps best known for faking death ("playing possum") as a means of defense when attacked. While he is capable of falling over on his side, his mouth open in a death-like grin with saliva running out, from which state he cannot be roused until the danger has passed, this is usually done only as a last resort.

A threatened opossum will most likely look for the nearest exit and run away (or more accurately “waddle away,” since they cannot move particularly fast). They will sometimes bare all 50 of their teeth, hiss, or even growl. With such displays they appear quite fierce, but actually the opossums is not an accomplished fighter and is rarely aggressive.