Camera captures opossum helping out a deer by removing ticks off its face

There are many misunderstood animals in the wild. But rarely will you find a more misunderstood animal than the opossum.

For years, people have feared and even hunted and killed these animals because they have been viewed as vermin, just like rats. But really, this is a classic case of, “don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Pixabay Source: Pixabay

Opossums may appear unsightly but they often don’t mean any harm. Although they can be found digging through trash bins and keeping in basements and attics during the cold winter months, they aren’t out to harm humans as many may assume.

In fact, these creatures are so easily frightened that they often hiss, play dead, or faint when they get scared.
Tony Alter Source: Tony Alter

And did you know that opossums actually help reduce Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses in animals and humans? It’s true!

However, as wild animals, they can carry diseases, parasites, and fleas just like many animals but rabies, as commonly believed, isn’t one of them. In fact, their body temperature is so low that they are less likely to contract and spread rabies at all.

They also clean themselves as regularly as cats do, helping to reduce their chances of contracting certain diseases like rabies.
born1945 Source: born1945

Still, they do pose a threat to horses. You might have heard that many farmers find opossums to be quite the nuisance as some do carry a virus that can kill horses. A spokesperson from the Opossum Awareness & Advocacy discussed this topic, in great detail, with Bored Panda.

“Different people view opossums in different ways and the perception is changing, but historically many believed opossums were giant rodents that spread rabies, due to the fact they do like a bit like rats (especially their tails). Historically people would kill them as pests and also eat them. There are several areas where people still do kill them and see them as pests. Some people see them as pests due to the fact that opossums seek warmth in the colder months and can make homes in basements and attics. Many horse owners hate opossums due to the fact that they are capable of carrying a virus that can kill horses. Not all opossums carry this virus. They need to contract it by eating another creature that has the virus. They spread the virus to horses by their urine or excrement (if the horse eats food/grass contaminated by the infected opossum urine/poop then they can become sick and it’s sometimes deadly). So there are some horse owners who kill opossums on sight. Others do not and just take precautions to keep opossums away from anything their horses might eat.”

But again, it seems as opossums might do more harm than good. They love to eat ticks, helping to reduce the spread of these cumbersome parasites. So much so, it’s estimated that they consume over 5000 in a season.

Recently, thanks to a trail camera, the Vermont Wildlife Coalition captured a photo of an opossum in action as it ate ticks off of a deer’s head. The sentence alone might be enough to make you cringe but this opossum is helping the deer out tremendously.
Vermont Wildlife Coalition Source: Vermont Wildlife Coalition

The caption of the photo reads:

“Trail cam snaps photo of an opossum eating ticks off of a willing deer’s head! Edit: PHOTO by Greg Swann, who told VWC that indeed the opossum was nibbling ticks!
Opossums can eat up to 5000 ticks in a 2-3 month period, and are resistant to rabies due to their low body temperature. Excellent allies in curbing this particular lyme disease vector.
Trappers don’t like them because they trigger traps set for coyote and other animals.”

In other words, opossums are nature’s little cleaners. In addition to eradicating ticks, they also help to get rid of snakes, slugs, and other garden pests. Still, it is best to keep your distance if you come across one because, as mentioned, they can carry other diseases.

Maybe these facts can prevent another opossum from being unnecessarily harmed by someone who misunderstands these little creatures.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters

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Sources: Bored Panda, Animal Channel