When most people catch a glimpse of an opossum their knee-jerk reaction is one of disgust and fear. Although it is true that they can be startling little creatures and when they look at you with those beady little eyes and bared teeth, a shiver will run down most anyone’s spine. However, what you may not know is just how much of a benefit having opossums around can be.
Opossums are not only interesting creatures but are actually one of the oldest mammals in the world. Over the centuries, mainly due to their appearance and nocturnal lifestyle, they have gotten a bad reputation for being scary and mean. The fact is, when it comes down to it, they are way more scared of you than you are of them.
Scientists continue to study the opossum, in an effort to determining just what, if any, potential part they may play in the spreading of the sometimes fatal Lyme’s disease. Years ago it was thought that the opossum was a transportation source for the disease and, as such, were ostracized from yards and property.
However, after years of study, it would seem that the opposite of their involvement in Lyme disease is true. In fact, after an extensive study, it would seem that opossums are a great source for controlling the tick population overall, more so than any other animals that were also included in the tests.
Similar in one way to cats, opossums are very picky about their fur, and what is in it. As fate would have it, if they find a tick in their fur they will lick it and then actually eat and swallow it. Richard Ostfeld, of the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York stated:
“I had no suspicion they’d be such efficient tick-killing animals.”
studies also showed that just one opossum, in one season alone, could kill as many as 5,000 ticks. Although it is probably that they do not kill every tick they come across, the chances are that they do kill about ninety percent of them. In this way, they play their part in preventing the spread of tick-borne diseases.
The next time you see an opossum in your yard, think twice about shooing it off. They will be more than happy to keep your yard clean of ticks so that you won’t have to.