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What Do Possums Eat? Most Things, It Turns Out

Virginia Opossum mother and babies on log in autumn
This family of Virginia opossums may look a little rough around the edges, but critters need to eat nonetheless Stan Tekiela Author / Naturalist / Getty Images

Much like raccoons, possums will rummage through your garbage cans looking for food. But what do possums eat when they aren't making a feast out of your food scraps? Read on to learn more about a possum's diet.

Opossums vs. Possums

Opossums and possums are two different animals. In North and South America, you will come across opossums — nocturnal marsupials that are typically gray. The Virginia opossum is the only kind of this small- to medium-sized animal that you will find north of Mexico.

An opossum, which is a scavenger and an omnivore, has a prehensile tail that helps it climb. When speaking about these omnivorous animals, people will use the terms "opossums" and "possums" interchangeably.

True possums, on the other hand, are native to Australia and New Guinea. They are arboreal marsupials and also nocturnal. Possums are mostly herbivores.

One of a Kind

The opossum is the only marsupial you will come across in the United States.

The Feeding Habits of an Opposum

These nocturnal animals mostly feed at night when their eyesight is best. Using their keen sense of smell, the opossum finds food, including table scraps and fruit.

While typically solitary animals as adults, a young opossum will stay in its mother's pouch and nurse for eight weeks. When very young, an opossum is as small as a navy bean and cannot scavenge for its food.

What Opossums Eat

Opposums like to eat a variety of foods; they are not picky eaters. They will eat eggs, fruits, and grains. They also eat other animals, such as birds, frogs, insects, worms, crustaceans, small mammals and carrion (dead animals).

If they can't follow their usual diet, they won't turn down cat food or dog food, and they may also dig through your garbage if you do not secure it.

Captive possums eat similar foods. According to LafeberVet, captive opossums should follow an omnivorous diet and eat vegetables, fruit (which should not exceed 20 percent of its diet) and protein once or twice a week.

Baby possums eat their mother's milk, but if that's not available in captivity, they can eat powdered milk formula.

Both Pests and Pest Control

Possums hunt rats, mice, cockroaches and other pests, making them an effective pest control. However, they are also pests that get into pet food and sometimes attack dogs and cats. They can also set up their dens in parts of your home, like an attic.

Now That's Interesting

Opossums play dead as a way to keep themselves safe. If baring their teeth and growling doesn't work and they cannot get away safely, they play dead. This can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. This action is so associated with them that the phrase "playing possum" means to pretend "to be asleep or dead."

Original article: What Do Possums Eat? Most Things, It Turns Out

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