I think we all need to give possums a little more respect. Though raccoons may be evil geniuses who will actively destroy your trash, we’ve collectively rebranded them as adorable little garbage monsters. And that’s fine! They are adorable little garbage monsters! But possums? Some of you actively want possums dead. You think nothing of a dead possum in the road. Look deep within yourself as you scroll through the Reddit group r/Opossums, though, and the truth will be unveiled before you: Possums are very cute, but more importantly, possums deserve respect. (Also, both “possum” and “opossum” are correct in the U.S.)
r/Opossums is a love letter to America’s only marsupial. It’s a mix of photos of wild possums and possums living under human care, but don’t let that fool you — possums are not pets. As many posts on r/Opossums will be quick to inform you, possums should only be kept as pets when they require rehabilitative care and couldn’t survive on their own in the wild. Because possums are so regularly hit by cars or otherwise killed, there are many orphaned baby possums in the world. Some are capable of surviving on their own, while others aren’t. In most of the country, it’s illegal to keep a possum as a pet without certification proving that you’ve coordinated with a wildlife rehabilitator and that release in the wild isn’t an option.
Nevertheless, all the photos of possums in baby pajamas certainly drive home the argument that possums are canonically cute critters. All the photos of wild possums, though, emphasize just how important they are for the environment.
According to the Humane Society, possums are regularly accused of crimes that raccoons and other wild animals commit. Rarely do possums destroy garbage or gardens, though they’re down to join in if someone else (*cough* raccoons) already got the party started. Possums will eat almost anything, including the smaller creatures you don’t want around, anyway. Notably, possums are exceptional tick-consumers. Per the Wildlife Medical Clinic at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, possums eat 95 percent of the ticks they encounter, or around 5,000 per season. Considering that ticks are responsible for 60,000 illnesses in humans per year, possums are essential for curbing the tick population and lowering the spread of disease.
Similarly, because possums are immune to snake venom, they’re capable of killing and eating reptiles that may otherwise pose a threat to humans.
But wait! There’s more!
Possums also eat roadkill and other potentially disease-carrying dead animals, functioning as nature’s crime-scene cleanup. And because of their relatively low body temperature (around 94 degrees Fahrenheit), common mammal ailments like rabies are rarely able to replicate among opossums. They might look like they have rabies, but they don’t — they just have big mouths and like to hiss.
Basically, possums actively prevent the spread of disease and generally don’t cause any problems. Somehow, though, people still tend to see them as massive, rabid rats. I’m really unsure what they ever did to you. What, you saw one under your porch at night and got scared? Grow up! That possum was protecting you from a rattlesnake and Lyme Disease at the same time while also carrying seven children in its pouch, and now you have the audacity to say it’s not even cute?
Nobody is asking you to keep one as a pet — in fact, most of the internet will ask you to please not keep one as a pet — but maybe consider navigating the world with pro-possum eyes. Life and its miracles will blossom before you.