Opossums (or possums, depending on your regional choice) are often considered disease-carrying vermin, but the truth is, they could actually help keep you healthier.
In fact, recent research suggests that opossums may be the most effective ecological trap when it comes to limiting tick populations.
Given that tick populations are at record levels, and given how many diseases ticks can carry (including Lyme disease, now known to be far more prevalent than once thought), having a few opossums in your area can help protect you.
In a recent study comparing squirrels, mice and opossums, which all eat ticks, and found opossums were the most effective ecological traps. Researchers found that ticks favor opossums twice as much as the other animals, and opossums are the most effective at killing ticks. Opossums kill almost every tick that occupies them; a single opossum kills over 5500 ticks per week.
Effective at eating disease-causing ticks, opossums are resistant to many diseases themselves. According to the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, opossums are rarely found to be rabid and are gentle. If they feel really threatened, the worst they do is play dead.
While researchers say this doesn’t mean we should breed opossum populations, it does mean we should let them live in peace in our ecosystems – especially as they can help protect us!