As we continue to expand our towns and cities, we will naturally encounter wild animals on or around our property.
One such species is the often-misunderstood Opossum more commonly known as the Possum. Whether you’re in North America, Central America, or Australasia the behavior and diets of possum are relatively similar. Despite there being over 100 subspecies of possum.
So, you were wondering… what do possums like to eat…so I’m guessing they are either a pest to you and you want to move them along, or you wish to feed them and enjoy their company. Well…let’s explore the varied diet of possums.
- Do Possums Scavenge in Garbage?
- Will Possums Eat Pet Food?
- Will Possums Eat From Bird Feeders?
- Can Possums Attack Pets or Chickens?
- Fruits or Vegetables Growing in Yard
What Do Possums Eat in the Wild?
What sorts of meals do possums get their paws on in the wilderness? It will surprise you to learn just a few of the items in the omnivorous possums’ diet.
While all breeds of possum eat a variety of bugs, the striped possum of New Guinea holds a diet almost entirely of insects. Munching mainly on ants, beetles, moths, crickets, and termites, striped possums do not require more nutrients than what these creepy crawlers provide.
Gliding and ringtail possums also consume insects often, but their diets do not consist of insects as the majority.
Ultimately, any land-dwelling invertebrates are in jeopardy of becoming possum food.
Grains such as rice, bread, corn, and oats are not present in any possum’s regular diet.
Despite this, they still enjoy feeding on various grains if given the opportunity. As long as the grains provided are “whole,” the possum should be just fine having a bite. Typically they will take these from livestock feed or bird feeders.
Fruits are standard food within a possum’s diet. Passionfruit is a familiar preference for many possum breeds.
Melons, citruses, berries, bananas, and apples are the safest fruits a possum can consume. For possums living strictly in the wild, small berries are the most customary in their diet.
Possums that live in woodland and forestry environments have a diet consisting mainly of flowers, leaves, and fruits. They specifically enjoy the soft rich foliage of vegetables but will munch through any vegetation including tree leaves.
In Australia, one famous example is the eucalyptus whose leaves are very high in nutrients. Possums can develop a skill to determine the available nutrients in the leaves they forage.
Reptiles and Birds
In their trend of eating nearly anything, possums could consume snakes, lizards, small birds or bird eggs, and rats. An attic-dwelling possum might kill and eat any rats it finds during its stay in the roof portion of your home. Possums are incredibly territorial, and a rat or any other small rodent appears as a threat.
While you are more likely to find a snake eating a possum, the opposite is still possible. However, it’s much more probable that a possum will dine on a gecko if they come across one during a nightly hunt.
How Do Possums Hunt and Forage?
Most possums will forage plants over hunting animals, with the exception of insects. While these animals are omnivores, various fruits and leaves make up most of a possum’s diet. Possums that live in heavily urbanized areas take advantage of the wide variety of human food scraps if they are within reach.
All possums forage for fruits, flowers, and leaves. The Australian Ringtail possums specifically like to digest their food twice by consuming their feces. This second consumption extracts the maximum nutrients from their meal.
Is It Safe to Feed Possums in The Yard?
If you recently spotted a possum or two in your backyard, is it all right to spare them some scraps? The short answer is yes, but what do possums eat, and what are the best food options to share with these backyard dwellers?
Should You Feed Wild Possums?
While possums could consume just about anything, it does not mean that they should. You can technically feed wild possums that make a home out of a tree in your yard. However, there are several things to keep in mind before reaching into your fridge or pantry.
While possums can consume processed bread, it is generally unhealthy for their diet. If you see a possum sitting in your yard and you feel compelled to feed it your leftover ham sandwich, this is a terrible idea. I also don’t recommend giving them sweets like chocolate or other sugary snacks.
Overall, it is safe to feed these forest friends in moderation. Possums are not typically domesticated animals, and one encountered in the wild should not be treated equivalent to a pet. If you decide to domesticate a possum, remember that this process is cumbersome, and these animals often become feral.
Do Possums Scavenge?
Like raccoons that can dwell in urban and suburban areas, possums scavenge in some unlikely places for food. City development is the leading cause for the increasing possum population in urban areas.
Do Possums Scavenge in Garbage?
If you load your garbage bin with food scraps, nearby possums will almost certainly rummage through it. Anything that remotely resembles food is a fair shake to a hungry possum.
Of course, most people have no desire to involuntarily greet a possum every time they take out the trash. Contrarily, many residents are not looking to hurt or exterminate the possum as a means to remove it either.
So, how can you humanely keep possums from scavenging in your garbage? Give them a feeding station!
Providing an outdoor feeding area is an excellent way to prevent possums from diving into your garbage bins. If you build a food-filled spot somewhere in your front or backyard far away from your garbage bin, possums will go there instead. So, what do possums eat in an area close to human inhabitants?
Will Possums Eat Pet Food?
Depending on what kind of pet you have, the possum might take a liking to the food reserved for your animal companion. A home-trained possum could happily eat dog or cat food in its solid pellet form. If you feed your furry friend using canned pet food, a possum will most likely enjoy it as well.
Fortunately, most possums are not going to fight your pets for their food. In many cases, your pet could do more damage to the possum if they are large and possessive enough.
Will Possums Eat From Bird Feeders?
In the trend of possums eating nearly anything, it is safe to say they enjoy seeds or nuts placed in a bird feeder. They also like to nibble on almonds.
Sunflower, pumpkin, and other bird seeds, as well as pecans and peanuts, make up many bird feeders. All of the contents of a typical bird seed pack are consumable and digestible for possums.
Considering bird feeders sit outdoors, a possum has free access to the seed holders. If the feeder sits within close proximity to your physical home, a possum may be less inclined to approach it given their reserved temperament.
Can Possums Attack Pets or Chickens?
Depending on the type of pet you have, a possum may attack it. Cats and dogs will probably attack and kill a possum before the possum can retaliate. Pets like small reptiles, birds, and chickens are at risk of possum attack.
If you have a chicken coop, possums can absolutely make their way in and prowl through the nests if they are hungry enough. If a possum can eat a bird, a chicken is not going to be significantly different from the omnivorous and undomesticated mammal.
So, what do possums eat once they’re inside the chicken coop or chicken’s nest? The likely outcome ends with the possum eating the eggs or even the young chicks.
To the detriment of your coop, all of the possum breeds have been known to attack and kill small vulnerable animals to eat. Possums’ primary diet consists of herbs and vegetarian produce, but they will eat other animals if given a chance.
Fruits or Vegetables Growing in Yard
If you have a green thumb paired with a passion for gardening, a possum might take note of that. Fruit is very present in most possums’ diets, and the strawberries growing in your yard are fair game to them.
Many possums enjoy fruits such as bananas, strawberries, and apples. To be frank, any fruit is up for grabs if these mammals get close enough. One solution is to cover your garden in netting, but many gardeners find that the net makes the area appear unattractive. Possums can also chew through the mesh if they really want to get to a meal.
Vegetables are also at risk. Carrots and cucumbers are favorites amongst the possum breeds. Given that many possums are folivores, the greenery and vegetation in your yard are at risk if the furry animal gains access.
Are Possums a Risk to Humans or Property?
Like any wild animal close enough to human civilization, they can be a danger to you and your property if not taken care of as soon as possible. Possums habitually create dens of all sorts as a place of refuge.
Attics or Roof
Possums can make their homes within the roof or attic of your home. On the bright side, people report that possums will kill or even eat the rats and various other creatures that initially inhabited the space.
However, roofs and attics are not suitable homes for these small marsupials. So, how can you gently remove a possum or family of possums from your attic or roof?
The best first step is to locate where the animal made its den in your roof or attic. Once you spot it, set up a security camera to monitor how the possum gets in and out of the area to scavenge when it needs food.
With the help of your security camera, you will be ready for the possum’s next exit attempt. Once the possum leaves the roof or attic, you can seal up the opening to prevent it from re-entering.
Fortunately, there is one unique solution that is effective for many facing a possum invasion.
Have you heard of a possum box? They’re a bit like a bat house or bird box.
Some people decide to build or purchase possum boxes. Possum boxes provide a purpose-made den and support possums where expanding city structures, affected possum populations by reducing their natural habitat.
If you find a possum or a family of possums in your yard, consider crafting or buying a possum box. Once your box is complete, be sure to place it within fifty meters (160 feet) of the possum’s original home. This step will ensure that the possum migrates to the box willingly and safely.
Do Possums Attack or Bite Humans?
Possums possess remarkably sharp claws and teeth. If you provoke or disturb a possum long enough, it should be a given that it will retaliate to protect itself. It is possible for possums to be dangerous and bite humans, but only if provoked. They are inherently cautious animals, so are more likely to flee.
Throughout the continents, possums constantly make their way into human homes. It can be quite a task to remove them and often leads to scratching, biting, and screeching if done incorrectly.
If a possum enters your home, you should always wear durable gloves before pursuing the nocturnal animal. In many cases, it will be necessary to dial animal control.
While most possums and opossums can contract rabies, the ringtail possum recently contributed to an outbreak of tularemia in parts of Australia.
What do possums eat that could cause this disease, though? Tularemia is a highly infectious disease caused by germs spread between humans and animals. Over 85% of the bacterial contigs found in ringtail possums were Francisella tularensis.
F. tularensis is the bacterium that causes tularemia to occur in people and animals. If you directly expose yourself to an infected animal, you may acquire tularemia as a result. Like other marsupials, possums can easily pick up infectious diseases by hunting or consuming affected insects.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted their research with the ringtail possums in 2017. Additionally, they discovered that ulceroglandular tularemia appeared in 75% of people exposed to F. tularensis through ringtail possums and other mammals.
What Do Opossums Look Like?
Many people think possums and opossums are the same animals. It is a common misconception to believe that “opossum” is just the technical term for “possum,” but this notion is not always accurate.
Opossums are much larger and rounder than possums. They have black eyes, black ears, and a grayish-white coat that covers their body. The fur on their head is typically white, and their faces are usually very long and narrow.
Opossum Vs. Possum
The word Possum is used to describe over 100 species of marsupial across North America, specifically the United States, Canada, South America, Central America, Mexico, Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.
Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is commonly known as the Virginian Opossum or the North American Possum. It is the only possum found in Mexico, with its coverage extending into Central America. Their coats are a dull gray color and they have white faces. This species of Possum is generally much larger than species that inhabit the tropics region.
Brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula), common dwellers of Australia and New Zealand, come in a variation of fur colors. Silverish-gray, gold, black, and brown are all likely coat shades to find on brushtail possums. They have bushy tails and pointed ears with shorter faces.
Ringtail possums (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) frequently come across as black rats to the untrained human eye. They appear rounder and more compact than the other arboreal possums in Australia. Their fur is a dark gray color, and their tails are typically a bright pink. The end of their tails takes the form of a ring, giving this marsupial its name.
Gliding possums (Acrobates pygmaeus), also known as gliders or pygmy possums, are smaller than the others. They have gray coats on their back and a yellowish-white stomach. Their heads are small with a unique striping pattern on top. The gliding possum has little arms that attach to its body through fur-covered flaps, allowing these Australian marsupials to literally “glide” short distances. The most admired and domesticated gliding possum is the “sugar glider.”
Striped possums (Dactylopsila trivirgata) reside on the Australian island of New Guinea. These marsupial mammals possess black eyes and tiny rounded ears. The striped possums wear white coats covered in distinctively black stripes. These nocturnal animals also have long, bushy tails and small heads with short faces.
Summary: What Do Possums Eat?
Possums across numerous continents eat nearly anything if it seems appealing. Most of these tree-climbing marsupials enjoy a wide range of insects, flowers, tree vegetation, and fruit.
If you find one of these pawed pals in your backyard, proceed with caution. It is generally acceptable to donate a snack and a spot for them to rest on your property, but these animals are still akin to the wilderness.
Always keep in mind that you should share food in moderation. Impeding too much on a possum’s primary diet could be detrimental for the possum in the long term.
FAQ: What Do Possums Like to Eat?
As you’ve seen by now, possums have an appetite for a range of things, but they have a keen taste for sweet treats.