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can opossums get rabies?

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Answer # 1 #

I have to admit that for many years I did not have a high opinion concerning opossums. After all, they are anything but nice looking, more often looking rather ragged and with a “rat-like” tail.

When I looked at those critters up close they always had a mean look with a “snarl-like” mouth. And besides all that, they had a nasty habit of eating birds' eggs whenever and wherever they found them. And I happened to like birds a lot.

But then I met a professor of wildlife biology at West Virginia University, Professor Brooks, who knew a lot more about opossums, and he sure set me straight, mainly by giving me an assignment that included both research and collecting road kills. And sure enough, I quickly learned all about these “varmints” and how they actually lived and survived.

First of all, “possums” do not contact or carry rabies. Nobody in the scientific community knows exactly why that is true, but it is. There are even believable episodes where a rabid animal attacked an opossum and the opossum remained unharmed by the encounter.

But the real proof is the fact that tens of thousands of road-killed opossums have been scraped up (including my own) and not one has been reported as being rabid.

Virginia opossums, their official name, are the only species of marsupial found here in the U.S. and Canada. There are multiple other species of marsupials living throughout Central and South America.

And as for their diets, it is hard to believe the variety of foodstuffs they can survive on. These include dead animals (including their bones (for calcium)), birds and bird’s eggs, bugs, frogs, and some grains and some plants. And pet owners who feed their animals outside may have observed that these critters also like pet food and garbage, too.

Believe it or not, opossums are immune from the venom of all “pit vipers” such as rattlesnakes, copperheads and water moccasins. And they actually seek out and munch on those critters, too.

And there is another rumor that these critters eat ticks. While it is true that they may gulp down ticks as part of their own grooming process, it is probably untrue that they lick ticks off of the faces of deer.

The opossum does not seem to either seek out or run into resting deer, and it is also doubtful that wild deer would allow these animals the opportunity to lick their faces. The obvious truth is that what works in a laboratory under scientific management does not always hold true with animals in the wild.

Are opossums vicious? Their normal appearance, with teeth plainly exposed, may suggest this. But their actions prove they are not at all vicious or even dangerous.

Even when attacked by any of many other wild predators they will play dead (while giving off a rather vile odor), quite often causing the attacker to leave them and search for other, more desirable prey.

It turns out that opossums are probably the best wild animals to have around your home or barn. You really do not have to do anything to encourage them to visit. If you have a compost pile with almost any old foodstuffs mixed in, they will gladly (if cautiously) visit you. And they truly are the most harmless of all wildlife.

During my time at WVU I received an immense amount of forestry knowledge along with my wildlife management and biology class work. And one of the important lessons I received was the different forest management techniques that were available to landowners.

If they wanted timber for industrial use, management was solely for timber yield. But for those landowners who wanted a balanced woodland that included wildlife and timber, other methods were suggested.

One was to leave old or large dead hardwood trees as places for many forms of wildlife to "flock" to. This included leaving the most mature mast trees (oaks, hickory, beech and other nut production trees) standing. Three to six of these nut producers would serve many different species of wildlife. It even includes large standing trees, either dead or alive, as suitable places for many species of birds and mammals.

It is a proven scientific fact that, for most bird and wildlife lovers, many of the most important trees in your woodlot are the ones that are either dying or dead. Large, standing dead or dying trees are an extremely important part of healthy woodlots (including whole forest preserves) and an important habitat characteristic for wildlife. They provide countless places for many birds and mammals to forage. They also provide nesting, perching and roosting areas.

Old dead trees offer important places for cavity-nesting animals (squirrels, raccoons, etc.), birds like woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches, and for bats that roost within cavities during the spring, summer and fall. Crevices and flaky bark provide a food course for countless species that rely on insects, fungi and lichens.

As long as they are not in a hazardous location such as near a road or building, consider leaving these old dying and dead trees for wildlife.

In woodlands where dead and dying trees, also called “snags,” are sparse or absent, it’s possible to create a few by topping, girdling, or simply leaving several mature trees as legacy trees that may become snags in the future. Biologists recommend having at least three to six large snags per acre to benefit wildlife.

These stately spires also add structural complexity, provide an element of visual interest, store carbon, reflect a forest stand’s past, and will enrich soils in the future.

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Bankey szszc Guest
COATER OPERATOR
Answer # 2 #

People might worry about rabies in animals that don't often carry the virus, like opossums or squirrels. But these animals hardly ever have rabies. People may not recognize a scratch or bite from a bat, which can be smaller than the top of a pencil eraser. But these types of contact can still spread rabies!

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Tareena Roy
MECHANICAL OXIDIZER
Answer # 3 #

Opossums, also commonly referred to as possums, are America’s only marsupial. These nocturnal creatures are common throughout Florida and love scavenging through trash. While docile and generally wary of humans, you should never try to interact with a wild opossum as they can carry a host of diseases that could threaten your health. But are they carriers of rabies?

While any mammal can get rabies, the disease is more common in other mammals such as bats, raccoons, or skunks. The chance of encountering a rabid opossum is extremely low. Opossums have a very low body temperature which scientists believe blocks the contraction of the rabies virus and makes it difficult to survive.

Unfortunately, people usually assume opossums carry rabies due to their behavior. Opossums will drool, hiss, and bare their teeth as a defense mechanism. In general, opossums are gentle creatures and will only do this when threatened. That being said, opossums are still wild animals that can cause property damage and carry other diseases that are no less concerning.

Opossums have been known to carry several diseases or parasites that can pose a threat to you and your family if contracted.

Symptoms of rabies in mammals include lethargy, vomiting, and lack of appetite. Over time, a rabid critter could become aggressive, be weaker than normal, have difficulty breathing or swallowing, or even become paralyzed.

If you spot an opossum or any other wild animal behaving erratically, do not interact with it. Instead, contact a wildlife professional who will be properly equipped and experienced to handle its safe removal.

If you encounter an unwelcome opossum on your Central Florida property, keep your distance and call Critter Control® of Orlando. Our expert team of professionals is prepared to deal with all sorts of nuisance wildlife and use eco-friendly and humane methods of removal. We also clean up any contamination left behind by the pest and install preventative safeguards that ensure critters stay away from your property.

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Trikha WomanTimes
TRAINING REPRESENTATIVE
Answer # 4 #

Possums are small mammals the size of house cats. They are grey in colour but with a white face and have short legs, a pointed nose, and a long tail. Possums are expert climbers and use their flexible tails for balance and support as they climb. They are usually active at night, thanks to their excellent night vision. During the day, they spend time in hollow trees, brush piles, and spaces under structures. When threatened, possums act lifeless by lying motionless on their side (feet clenched, tongue hanging out, mouth and eyes wide open) and releasing a green secretion from their anus that smells like a rotten carcass.

Many people think that possums are blind, which is flat-out wrong. Possums are not blind even though they move sluggishly. They have eyes with dilated pupils that enable them to see in the dark.

Although possums are not that destructive, you should not entertain them in your home. They are still considered dangerous because they can:

The big question is, do possums get rabies and even transmit it? Any mammal can get rabies, and possums are no exception. But possums are at low risk of contracting rabies because of their low body temperature, making it hard for the rabies virus to thrive.

While it is unlikely for possums to transmit rabies, they are known disease carriers. Their bodies harbour germs and pathogens that can cause illnesses. Leptospirosis is one of the diseases transmitted through the urine or other body fluids of infected possums. The disease is harmful to both pets and humans. Possums are also linked to various other sicknesses. These include tuberculosis, tularemia, toxoplasmosis, Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis), relapsing fever, and spotted fever. Besides, they are infested with parasites like lice, fleas, mites, and ticks that are disease spreaders.

Possums tend to be opportunists. That is why they invade homes despite them belonging in the woodlands. When you find a possum in your home, note that it is just stopping by to get a meal. Possums love eating cat food and rummaging through garbage. Once they have eaten to their fill, they will leave. But if it is cold outside or breeding season, they will seek shelter in your residence, especially in the attic and under the deck. They can stay there for months if food is readily available. Though possums are troublesome, they are beneficial in eliminating pests like slugs and small rodents.

When you find possums in your yard, the best thing to do is to let them be. Within a day or two, they will move somewhere else. However, if you realise they have made your home a permanent dwelling place, you need to take appropriate measures to remove them. Here are some of the ways to deal with possum infestation:

Trapping involves capturing an animal with a baited trap. Once the animal is trapped, you release it somewhere safe away from your home. It may take a few days before the possums troubling you get trapped. So, be patient.

Possums invade homes looking for something to eat, including fruits, veggies, small animals, and animal remains. They also search for a cosy place to inhabit. Identify and remove such things and areas that may attract possums to your home.

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Kabeer Mulye
PILLOWCASE TURNER