Opossums are nocturnal, spending the day in dens or other protected spots. However, they can be seen at any time of day, especially in winter when food is scarce. At night, opossums forage in areas near their current dens, but can travel up to 2 miles in search of food. Opossums are solitary animals, and except during breeding season or a female with her young, they are rarely seen together. Opossums do not hibernate. Although they can climb and are good swimmers, opossums prefer to amble about on the ground. With a top speed of about 4 miles per hour, when “running,” opossums appear to be walking quickly, with the tail rotating in circles for balance. When idle, opossums constantly groom themselves, much as house cats do.
A nighttime walk along a path bordering a stream or wetland, or down an alley lined with trashcans, will occasionally turn up an opossum searching for food. Strong but not agile climbers, opossums can be observed climbing trees to escape, search for food, rest, or to look for dens. Their tails are able to wrap around and grasp tree limbs and can support the animal’s full weight for short periods. (Contrary to myth, opossums do not hang upside down by their tails when sleeping.) The opossum is a slow runner and when threatened will usually growl, hiss, and bare its teeth or try to escape by climbing the nearest tree. However, when caught out in the daylight with little chance of escape, or when attacked, the opossum will “play possum.” This is a surprisingly effective defense commonly seen in insects. In such cases the opossum will fall on its side, curl its body, open its drooling mouth, and excrete droppings—all to give the appearance of being dead. While the opossum is in this state, which lasts several minutes or several hours, no amount of prodding will produce a response. Though it appears to be in a catatonic state, its metabolic processes are as high as when the animal is fully alert.
Opossums are capable of transmitting several different diseases. Because opossums salivate heavily, people may assume they are rabid. Even though opossums can potentially transmit rabies, they appear to be very resistant to the disease and are not considered serious rabies vectors. Opossums may also transmit Murine typhus or other diseases to people or pets through the fleas that infest them. Where opossums are common, pet owners should be diligent in controlling fleas on their animals.
An opossum in your Nashville house should be removed immediately. If you suspect you have an opossum in your attic, under porch, under sheds, utility building or opossums in your chimney you should call our opossum removal experts immediately. Our wildlife control specialists have the necessary training and skills to remove your nuisance opossum and complete the necessary repairs and exclusion techniques to keep opossums out of your home. We get rid of opossums humanely and safely.