What Do Opossums / Possums Eat? (A super WEIRD diet…)
When you’re trying to lure an opossum into a trap (or perhaps out of your yard), you’re going to want to know what foods you can use to attract these creatures.
Whether you’re trying to actually contain a problem opossum prowling around your property or you’re just curious about learning more about the diet of this reclusive species, keep reading!
Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000’s of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!
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So, What Do Opossum’s Like To Eat?
You’ll have a much easier time finding objects that an opossum won’t try to ingest rather than trying the pin down each and every thing they do eat.
Like humans, opossums are omnivores—they eat both plants and meat—and in their case, pretty much everything in between.
Check out the detailed sections below for a little more insight on how their diets break down.
Opossums Eating Ants, Roach, & Mice
Did you know that opossums are actually beneficial animals? Despite their creepy appearances and catatonic-like states of panic when humans come around, these animals are like nature’s exterminators!
Opossums regularly feast on cockroaches, mice, rats, spiders, slugs, snails, insects, frogs—you name it, they probably eat it. These animals specialize in consuming the unpleasant critters in your yard; getting rid of them so you don’t have to!
Opossum’s Like To Eat Dead Plants & Weeds
You know those unsightly weeds you want to get rid of in the garden?
You guessed it—opossums will happily eat those. They prefer to eat wilting, decaying plant matter over healthy, well-nourished crops, which breathes a sigh of relief into every green-thumbed gardener out there.
Opossum’s Also Eat Carrion Sometimes
If you’ve ever seen a fresh piece of roadkill, the image of a mother opossum with babies riding on her back surely isn’t far behind in your head.
The reason these two thoughts are connected is that opossums feed on carrion—another term for dead animals—and are commonly seen munching on the carcasses of decaying animals on the side of the road.
In the wild (as well as in your backyard), opossums enjoy picking the bones of dead animals clean, and will take advantage of any carcasses they find lying around.
Weird Stuff Opossums Eat Sometimes
Okay, so opossums basically eat anything and everything. That much is clear.
But what are some of the especially crazy things they ingest?!
Opossums Prey On Rattlesnakes?!
Here’s something we bet you didn’t know: despite the fact that it’s one of the most dangerous snake in the USA, opossums can eat a rattlesnake with no problem!
How can this be?!
Well, it turns out that opossums have a protein in their blood which make them immune to a snake’s venom. To an opossum, a snake is just another food source, no different than a frog or a really long slug.
Scientists are currently using the blood of opossums to help develop anti-venom for human use. To learn more, check out the video below.
Opossums Can Even Munch On Garbage
Guess what lives in your trash? Rats, mice, roaches, ants…the list goes on and on. And guess what eats all those things?
You guessed it! Opossums. Wherever there are household pests, there will also be opossums to hunt them down. Of course, this is beneficial in the form of free pest control…but when there’s an animal ransacking your garbage area in order to grab a free meal, things can get pretty messy.
In addition to following the pests, opossums themselves are attracted to the scent of the garbage—particularly trash that has food scraps mixed inside. This can be problematic for homeowners, especially when the opossums tear into garbage bags and scatter trash through the yard in order to find the scraps they smell.
Pet Food Might Also Be Something In An Opossum Diet
If you find yourself setting out food for your dog or cat, but seeing it disappear before your furry friend has a chance to chow down, an opossum might just be the culprit.
It’s not uncommon for opossums to feed on pet food left outside homes, especially in urban areas where there’s not much wildlife or roadkill to forage for themselves. Oftentimes, this is one of the first signs that an opossum is prowling around a property, as their reclusive nature and nocturnal schedule keeps opossums from coming out and interacting with humans in the light of day.
Opossums have a protein in their blood which makes them immune to a snake’s venom.
To an opossum, a snake is just another food source, no different than a frog or a really long slug. Scientists are currently using the blood of opossums to help develop anti-venom for human use.
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Final Thoughts About Opossums And Their Diets
Opossums are, essentially, like nature’s garbage disposals; much like raccoons, these little guys will eat just about anything.
Whether you’re trying to bait an opossum into a trap or understand why the one in your yard seems to eat everything in sight, we’re here to shed a little light on their feeding habits. With our article, you’ll know that it’s much easier to ask yourself about the foods that opossums don’t like rather than what they do eat!
How To Get Rid of Opossums (2022 Edition)
Are Opossums/Possums Dangerous? (The Answer May Surprise You)
Possum vs. Opossum (What’re the Big Differences?)
Find Your Pest Pro
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What Do Possums Eat and Are They Dangerous?
Opossums benefit humans in many ways, helping control a number of unwanted pests. Although opossums are nonaggressive, nocturnal creatures that generally aren’t dangerous, they are often nuisances that dig in the garbage, take up residence under a porch, raid a well-tended garden or wreak havoc in the chicken house.
Opossums are omnivores and survive by eating a variety of foods. The primary sources of sustenance are small rodents, insects, worms, slugs and snails, frogs and birds. Additionally, opossums eat vegetables, berries, nuts, fruit, garbage, pet food and bird seed.
Opossums are resistant to rabies and rarely carry the disease. Opossum feces, however, sometimes carry the eggs of a parasite that may cause illness in horses if the feces contaminate food and water. According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, most opossums don’t shed the parasite, and even if exposed, most horses don’t contact the disease. Keeping opossums away from barns and horses’ water and food is the best way to minimize opportunities for contamination. Additionally, opossums are hosts for fleas that carry a number of diseases.
Opossums generally present no dangers to humans and animals, although they often harass household pests by showing their teeth, hissing and growling. Occasionally, fights break out and the opossums inflict serious injury with their sharp teeth. Usually, however, opossums protect themselves by emitting a foul, rotten smell from their anus while playing dead, often for as long as 45 minutes.
- Purdue University Extension: Opossums
M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.
What Do Possums Eat?
Have you ever seen a creature lying still and seemingly dead by the side of the road, only to watch it stand up and walk away as if nothing happened? Chances are, the animal you saw was an opossum. Opossums belong to the order Didelphimorphia and live only in the Americas. Overall, there exist over 120 different species, most of which reside in South America. In fact, only one species lives in the United States and Canada. The Virginia opossum, or simply “possum,” is the only marsupial found north of Mexico. These predominantly solitary, nocturnal animals live in a wide variety of habitats, including close to human populations. When startled, they often play dead, which is where the phrase “playing possum” originates. While you may have encountered a possum before, can you answer the question “what do possums eat?”
Today, we intend to answer this question for you in our guide to a typical possum’s diet. For the purpose of this article, we will use the term possum to refer specifically to the Virginia possum. The diet a possum eats is largely influenced by its habitat, so we will restrict our view to those possums living in the United States and Canada. We will cover what possums typically eat and how they hunt and forage for food. Additionally, we’ll discuss what they eat in captivity and what baby possums eat. With that said, let’s get ready to play possum and figure out what do possums eat.
What Do Possums Like to Eat?
Possums eat insects, dead animals, rodents, and fruits.
Possums are omnivorous and will eat pretty much anything that they can catch. They enjoy a wide variety of plants and animal-based foods and could hardly be called picky eaters. Typically speaking, the foods a possum will eat depends mostly on its environment. Possums will also adjust their diet according to the seasons, as they become less active in winter. That said, some foods make up the bulk of a possums diet, while they eat others only infrequently. In addition, possums enjoy some foods more than others and will choose to eat those foods when readily available. To narrow down this list, we’ve identified 10 foods that possums like to eat the most. These foods include:
- Small mammals
Unlike some animals, possums will eat carrion, and will not shy away from eating other animals, Furthermore, evidence suggests that captive possums may engage in cannibalism. However, little evidence points to cannibalism being a common practice in the wild. When in the presence of humans, possums will often raid compost piles, garbage cans, and trash heaps for scraps. They will also steal food from dog and pet bowls, bird feeders, and gardens. At their core, possums are opportunists, and will never pass up an easy meal when one presents itself.
How Do Possums Hunt and Forage For Food?
Possums use their opposable thumbs and prehensile tail to help them climb trees.
A possum’s most valuable senses are its keen sense of touch and an exceptional sense of smell. Possums will use their opposable “thumbs” to help them climb trees and branches to pillage eggs from birds’ nests. They also use their strong front paws and long claws to dig in the dirt for insects and bugs. Meanwhile, their exceptional smelling abilities help them to locate food from far away. In fact, their noses have around 3 times as many genes devoted to detecting scents as humans. While their sense of hearing is okay, it is not well developed. Furthermore, their sense of taste is also quite lacking, which may explain why they will eat almost anything. Finally, their eyesight is rather poor. However, as nocturnal animals, they rely very little on eyesight, as they use their sharp noses to help them get around and find food.
Possums move constantly during the night in search of food. They use their sharp claws to help them dig up insects, bugs, and invertebrates. Their opposable thumbs and prehensile trails aid them in climbing trees to attack birds and forage for eggs. A possum’s mouth contains around 50 teeth, which is more than any other mammal in North America. In addition, they possess 10 upper incisors, well above what any other mammal possesses. While their toothy smiles make it easy for them to chomp down on other animals, they also spend a good deal of time foraging for plants, especially fruits. Those possums that live close to humans frequently use their noses to track down garbage and other refuse. Trash is calorie-rich and makes for an easy meal for a possum.
What Do Possums Eat in the Wild?
Possums eat mostly insects but will eat just about anything that they can find, including garbage.
In the wild, insects make up the bulk of a possum’s diet. Common insects the possums eat include grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, and cockroaches. Additionally, possums represent one of the best natural tick repellents you can find. Possums love to eat ticks and can eat up to 5,000 ticks during a single season. This makes them very effective at reducing tick numbers and the spread of illnesses like Lyme disease. They also eat small animals such as rabbits, mice, rats, voles, frogs, snakes, birds, lizards, and fish. Possums have a natural resistance to certain snake venoms, which make them an ideal predator of snakes. Possums will often eat carrion, which is what often attracts them to roads or human areas. This can lead to collisions, which explains why people often associate possums with roadkill.
During the spring and summer, possums tend to eat more animal matter as it is more abundant. However, in summer, fall, and winter, possums will begin to eat more plant matter. They particularly like berries and fruits such as apples and persimmons. Possums will also eat nuts and seeds, although with less frequency than other foods. When no other food is readily available, they will also eat grasses and other vegetation. Truly, the possum is willing to eat just about anything if it is hungry enough.
What Do Captive Possums Eat?
Opossums often sleep during the day in an abandoned burrow or hollow tree.
In captivity, possums usually live up to 4 years old. However, living this long requires that a possum eats a balanced diet full of nutritional foods. As omnivores, possums need to eat a wide variety of foods in order to stay healthy and get all the nutrients they need. Pellet insect foods are popular choices for feeding pet possums since insects make up a large part of their diet. Many people who keep captive possums also supplement plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits. Other foods include eggs and lean meats such as chicken or fish. You can also include dietary supplements that contain additional vitamins and minerals such as calcium. Given their love of food, possums will eat just about anything you put in front of them. However, this can lead to problems such as obesity, especially given their naturally slow metabolism.
What Do Baby Possums Eat?
Baby possums will remain with their mother until they’re around 4 or 5 months old.
At birth, baby possums measure only slightly more than half an inch long. Once born, baby possums will then climb into their mother’s pouch and begin sucking on her milk. They will remain in the pouch for around 2.5 months, during which time they eat only milk. Upon emerging from the pouch, the babies will climb onto their mother’s back. During the time that it spends on its mother’s back, a baby possum will eat the same foods as an adult. Most young possums will remain with their mother until around 4 or 5 months old. At that point, they are old enough to fend for themselves. Baby possums kept in captivity are fed a powdered milk formula, and eventually mashed fruits and veggies. If you encounter a baby possum in the wild, you should not attempt to take it in, as the mother may be nearby.
What Do Possums Eat? Possum Diet, Eating Habits & Schedule
Possums, also known as opossums, have over 60 species with remarkable abilities to find food. But the Virginia opossum is the only marsupial found in the USA. What do possums eat? This guide discusses the diet and list of foods possums eat to survive. Furthermore, we’ll dive into the list of foods to avoid feeding possums and what baby possums eat, so stick around.
The opossum diet consists of animals and plants because they are omnivores. Furthermore, these creatures eat ticks, vegetables, dead animals, eggs, and fruits. While vegetables and fruits are the primary possum’s diet, they also consume birds, ticks, rodents, fungi, insects, and algae.
These creatures with poor eyesight are scavengers in animal matter with an excellent memory. Opossums can remember food sources and visit the location the next day for more.
Besides, they have a superb immune and digestive system and are even resistant to Lyme disease. While many carry rare cases, they cannot develop or transmit Lyme disease. Furthermore, they have a great sense of smell and hearing. As a result, opossums can prey on uncovered compost heaps, dirty containers, or smelly trash cans with a keen sense.
Possums enjoy eating fruits in the summer and flowers during winter. Rockmelons, watermelon grapes, bananas, berries, and grapes are ideal fruits for these creatures during the summer seasons.
Flowers, grains, and eggs are an excellent food for opossums in the winter seasons. Furthermore, these creatures feed on insects, snakes, and rodents in winter.
Besides, an opossum feeds on beans, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, snails, crickets, beetles, and other small animals in any season for survival.
List of foods possums eat
Insects, roaches, ants, fruits, dead animals, and plants are foods possums like to eat. These creatures can feed on small vertebrates, rattlesnakes, weeds, and even carrion. There are extensive collections of food possums eat, and we will list a few below:
Dead plants and weeds
Possum can feed on unsightly weeds and decaying plants if your home has a garden. Unfortunately, these creatures happily feed on decaying plants and weedy vegetation instead of healthy crops.
While plants and weeds are not the primary food sources, they contain beneficial nutrients for bone formation. In addition, the nutrients in dead weeds and plants improve the possum’s diet with high calcium.
Opossums maintain bone density and tooth growth with the calcium in plants and weeds. Furthermore, they feed on grasses, nuts, plant leaves, and bulbs in moist areas.
Ants, Insect, Roach, & Mice
These creatures with bright memories feed on tiny animals because of their diverse dietary eating pattern. For example, possums regularly feast on rats, mice, ants, insects, cockroaches, and other animals. A playing possum can attack with sharp claws and hide in an abandoned burrow. They play dead, making it difficult for small animals to play possum.
Opossums are nature’s pest control and can keep your garden free of household pests. Although these creatures do not go around looking for insects, rats, mice, or birds eggs until they desperately need food.
Furthermore, opossums also eat roaches and other pests with sharp teeth when they become aggressive. These animals specialize in killing and eating rats, squirrels, snails, cockroaches, slugs, etc.
Dead Animals or Carrion
If you drive long distances, you may encounter fresh roadkill with possums feeding on it. These creatures eat carrion and feast on dead and decaying animals in the wild or by the roadside.
While possums will eat anything to survive, they take advantage of the carcasses of animals killed. These creatures pick the bones of beneficial animals clean and even eat them for a balanced diet.
The opossum diet involves a high amount of calcium found in the skeletal remains of other animals.
What Do Possums Eat?
Is it “possum or opossum?” That’s always a point of confusion. No one is certain how the “o” was dropped, but the correct term is “opossum.” However, the name “possum” began to appear in print as early as 1613 and is the accepted name for North America’s only marsupial.
There are more than 60 species of possum, the most common being the Virginia possum. This animal has always been perceived as a dirty scavenger, but possums do have a few positive features. For one, possums have a remarkable ability to find food and then remember where it is located. They return again and again to the same food sources. In laboratory tests, possums scored higher than rats, rabbits, cats and dogs in their ability to recall where food was placed. With that said, just what do possums eat?
The possum diet
The possum menu consists of dead animals, insects, rodents and birds. They also feed on eggs, frogs, plants, fruits and grain. A little known fact about a possum’s diet is their need for high amounts of calcium. Due to this fact, possums readily eat the skeletal remains of rodents and other roadkill animals. Unfortunately, possums are also known to eat dog food, cat food and table scraps. It’s not uncommon to happen upon a possum rummaging through your garbage cans.
Built for scavenging
What do possums like to eat? Possums will eat practically any food source they can find and gain access to. Accessibility to food is most often not a problem because of their anatomical makeup and feeding habits. Possums have poor eyesight, but a keen sense of smell and hearing. They are most active at night and move constantly in search of food. They are also equipped with sharp claws, which they use for digging, climbing and capturing prey. They have a long tail to aid them in climbing.
Too young to hunt
While adults are well equipped to scavenge for food, newborn opossums are only about the size of a honey bee. So what do baby opossums eat? Young opossums will stay in their mother’s pouch for around 80 days before they are mature enough to scavenge on their own.
On the positive side, because rodents, cockroaches, snails and slugs are included in the possum’s diet, they can decrease the number of these pests. To ensure you keep possums and other pests under control around your home, call a Terminix® pest management professional for a free inspection.