Bright sun and warm breezes broke Iowa’s February subzero weather. Being outside unencumbered by thick gloves, boots, and coats felt great, and we even enjoyed a cup of coffee sitting outside on the sunny side of our home. We weren’t alone.  A glance at the bird feeder one late afternoon revealed a friend we hadn’t seen in months.  An opossum was enjoying a meal of seeds while basking in the relative warmth. We suspect the animal had spent frigid days and nights dormant under a brush pile.

Many people don’t like possums but we do. They’re fascinating – and helpful! The Iowa DNR lists these little-known facts about Iowa’s only marsupial, an animal that cares for its young in a pouch similar to the Australian kangaroo.

Fun Facts About Opossums

  • Possums are virtually immune to rabies.
  • A copperhead or rattlesnake might bite a possum and be surprised. These ancient animals are immune to their poison and will likely gobble up the hapless snake for lunch. Not so much in Iowa. Poisonous snakes are rare here and only found in a few areas.
  • No other native mammal has as many teeth. Opossums have 50. When approached they’ll often open their mouth and show them off. They also might hiss, but our possums didn’t make any threatening moves.
  • Possums play possum. It discourages some predators but doesn’t work with cars. Many are killed as they crossroads. Do avoid hitting them.
  • Possums have hind feet that look a bit like a human hand. Their tracks in the snow are distinctive.
  • Female opossums have 13 teats. Twelve are in a circle in her pouch with one in the center.
  • Babies are tiny. The size of a dime. After birth, they finish developing in mom’s pouch. When they are older, they’ll often ride on her back.
  • Some sources say opossums reduce tick numbers. They often groom themselves and consider any tick they find a tasty snack.

We enjoy seeing our opossum friends. On cold nights we sometimes put a little cat or dog food out for them. Life’s not easy for these animals with naked tails and thin fur, so we try to help them.

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