Opossum may drive your dog to distraction but they're great for your garden

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The little marsupials eat snakes, ticks, slugs and bugs of all kinds

Opossums usually pop out at night, running quickly through your yard. If you let the dog out the opossum will really mess with its head. It can run and chase the little opossum all through the yard and then when the opossum gets tired or feels threatened it will turn over on its back and expel a foul odor from its anal glands, roll its eyes in the back of its head and pretend it's dead.

Oh don't you wish you could turn over and do that to people that irritate you?

The little opossum has the last laugh -- it's faking its death so it can catch its breath and drive your dog crazy again.

The opossum isn't really such a bad guy or gal. It's an animal that can actually help a lot around the perimeters of your home. For one, they eat snakes. Not just your average snake either -- they eat all of them including the venomous ones. They are generally immune to the effects of snake venom. They also are immune to rabies. They are almost super heros in terms if what they aren't susceptible to.

Their body temperature is slightly lower than that of other mammals, and the rabies virus can't take hold -- pretty tricky, you must admit.

The tick's foe

Nobody likes ticks and opossums are great at destroying ticks. And by the way, these are not dirty little animals; they are constantly grooming themselves and removing (and eating) parasites like ticks. One opossum can take out around 5,000 ticks each year. That alone makes them worth having around.

Just planted stuff in the garden? Be happy if you see an opossum -- they love slugs and bugs, thus protecting all those plants you have spent time watering and babying.

I know what you are thinking -- they're rats. Nope, they aren't even related to rats. They're marsupials. Most marsupial species live in Australia and like kangaroos or koalas, opossums have a very short pregnancy -- just 12 days -- and give birth to their young even before eyes or hind limbs have fully formed. They finish their development traipsing around in their mom's pouch!

And don't go calling them invasive, or aliens. The Virginia opossum was "discovered" in 1610 in what later became -- what else? -- Virginia. The name is derived from a Powhatan Indian term. 

If you can get over the fact that the opossum looks like a rat it might not be such a bad guy to have wandering around the neighborhood.

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