Opossums are not the most pleasant animals to find rummaging through your trash, as their appearance is generally considered unsightly. However, opossums are highly adaptable to new environments. Unfortunately, many residents of Maine are learning this for the first time, as the marsupials have been expanding their habitat northward for the past decade.
For the past several years, opossums have been surprising residents of Maine, but this year the critters seem to be staging an all out invasion of the state. According to Keel Kemper, state regional wildlife biologist, this year is the first year that opossums have made their presence known to a majority of Maine’s residents. Kemper’s phone has been ringing off the hook with complaints from residents concerning the nuisance that these animals have been causing. Kemper also stated that an opossum can probably be found around every bird feeder within the state at this point. The growing opossum population in Maine has authorities in the state scrambling to find a reliable method of controlling the critters.
Opossums measure between two to three feet in length and their appearance leads many people to assume that they are related to rats, but the two animals are not closely related. Unlike rats, opossums are primitive animals that first appeared on earth around 65 to 90 million years ago, which was when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Opossums are also the only marsupials in North America, as most marsupials are native to Australia. Much like kangaroos, opossum mothers carry their young within a pouch located on their abdomen. The marsupials also possess a whopping 50 razor sharp teeth, which is more than any other mammal species.
Opossums adapt easily to new environments, but life in Maine may be a bit too harsh for these animals. Opossums do not hibernate; instead, they forage year round. The decrease in available food sources toward the end of fall may be the reason as to why these critters are gravitating toward people’s homes. Many opossums will likely die of starvation this winter due to a lack of available food sources during Maine’s lengthy winter season. Considering that opossums rarely carry rabies, their presence in Maine is not being treated like a public health crisis. Opossums are also not aggressive toward domesticated pets, so for now, most residents of Maine have humanely accepted the new opossum presence within their state.
Has your home ever sustained damage that had been caused by an opossum/s?