Texas Living

4 Benefits of Opossums, Our Friendly Neighborhood Pest Control

By Abi Grise Morgan 5.11.21

It’s not typically love at first sight with opossums. With their long snouts, pointy teeth, and scaly, prehensile tails, they are often said to resemble overgrown rats. They’re nocturnal, so you’re most likely to encounter them at night — say, as they rummage through your trash can or wood pile.

But take a closer look. Despite their spooky appearance, opossums are fantastic neighbors! There are many benefits to having opossums living in your backyard. Here are four reasons why you shouldn’t fear an opossum.  

1. Opossums Are Excellent Garden Guardians

Opossums live in nearly every part of Texas, thriving in woods, farmlands, marshes, and prairies — basically anywhere but the deep reaches of the desert. They’re also one of Texas’ oldest mammalian inhabitants and the only marsupial in North America. Since dinosaur times, the lowly opossum has quietly groomed the earth of insects and pests.

Opossums offer a number of free janitorial services for homeowners, mainly due to their extraordinarily diverse diet. They’re omnivores that eat the true pests under and around your house: cockroaches, mice, grubs, lizards, ants, snails, beetles, lizards, carrion, and even snakes! They also suck up thousands of ticks every year.

2. Opossums Are Essentially Disease-Proof

How do they do it, you ask? Turns out that opossums are immune to most pest-borne diseases. They have a lower body temperature than most other mammals, which prevents some common diseases, such as rabies, from multiplying inside their bodies. Their robust immune system prevents them from contracting Lyme disease from the ticks they eat.

That means it’s unlikely an opossum will carry a disease contractable by humans or their pets. (All this said, opossums still aren’t exactly huggable; they’re not immune to fleas.)

3. Opossums Are Solitary Rangers

Opossums spend most of their time wandering here and there, neither making nests nor staying in one area for more than a couple of days. If you find one in your backyard, it might not be there again tomorrow. That means you don’t have to worry about them couch-surfing, sponging off you, or setting up camp. They’re also solitary creatures. If you spot an opossum, it’s likely either on its own or is a mother whose babies are living in her pouch.

4. Opossums Play an Oscar-Worthy Defense Game

Opossums will hiss when threatened, baring all 50 of their teeth, but they’re all bark and no bite. Opossums are slow, ungraceful, and highly unlikely to attack or even approach humans or pets — they don’t pick fights they know they’ll lose. It’s highly unlikely an opossum will pick a fight with you, your dog, or your cat (unless it’s defending itself against a particularly aggressive breed). They’re much more likely to pull out their famous move and play dead: They’ll flop over, catatonic, begin drooling, and even release their musk glands, which literally smell like death. It’s supremely gross — but effective! Most predators prefer fresh snacks.

What to Do if You See an Opossum

In most cases, you can just let your little friend wander by and perform its complimentary pest-control service.

However, while opossums are certainly no menace, they’ll happily help themselves to kibble, so you may want to keep your pet food inside unless you want to feed your outdoor friend.

If you find an injured opossum, do not touch it. Immediately contact a local wildlife rehabilitator. You can find a list of Texas wildlife rehabilitators by county on the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.

While there are benefits to having opossums, there are plenty of Texas critters that are pests. Learn how to keep them out of your home with our guide.

© 2021 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance