Wild Encounters: Trained Opossum

Wild Encounters

(WJBF) – We’re taking a look at a trained opossum to find out how they’re helpful!

We’re talking with Rebecca about this opossum.

Rebecca Wanner, Senior Ambassador Animal Keeper: “This is Manny. He’s about nine months old, so he’s still considered a younger guy. These guys can be found all throughout North America. They are what we call ‘opportunistic eaters,’ which means they will eat anything they can get their little hands on. So, that is why they are so notorious for eating out of our trash or found eating leftover food that get’s discarded; because whatever smells good to them, they are going to take the opportunity to eat it.”

“I think we all know that opossums get a bit of a bad rap, but how do they help us?”

Rebecca: “These guys can eat up to 5,000 ticks per day. So, if you think about ticks, nobody likes them. They can carry diseases and cause a lot of problems and these are one of the main predators for those ticks. They also eat a lot of other bugs and/or other rodents or pests we don’t want around our house and these guys are usually great about coming in and cleaning those up for us.”

“Now, what’s the difference between ‘possum’ and ‘opossums’?”

Rebecca: “It’s all about where you are found. The ‘opossum’ is going to be our opossum found here in North America. So, this is the Virginia Opossum…that’s who you would see in your backyard, whereas ‘possums’ are generally found in Australia or South America.”

“Now, I’ve noticed you’ve been able to have this guy do some tricks. How are you able to train him and how long is the training process?”

Rebecca: “The training process can be really lengthy sometimes. You’ll probably notice he’s eating a lot of different delicious snacks. So, he has some of his favorites like apples, he has squash, he has bell pepper, he has carrots, he gets grapes…he gets all kinds of stuff he really likes to eat and you can see he’s very motivated for that food. So, that’s part of his normal diet: a bunch of fruits and veggies that are really food for him and since he is so motivated to get those snacks all the time, we use those foods to teach him different things. A lot of it is for veterinary care. Getting in and out of his crate is very helpful if he can do it on his own.”

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