Wild animals are called so since they are hard to be tamed, and not friendly with humans. Some animals are exceptions because they are shy and maintain distance from humans but rarely attack them. They can be living in your background, and if you happen to cross paths with them, they will swish away from you. Opossums are like that though, people are still unsure about are possums dangerous to humans or are possums harmful. So let us find out more about how dangerous are possums in reality.
1. How do they React when Humans Approach them?
A human approaching an opossum is not acceptable to them. Possums are shy, and they consider this as a threat. Unlike other animals, they will not attack, scratch, or bite if you move towards them. Instead, they will play dead. Are possums dangerous to humans? This can’t solely be judged by their reaction because it is their defense mechanism which they carry out whenever they sense danger or threat around them.
- Their body will suddenly stiffen up with foam-like saliva around their mouth.
- Their eyes will be half or fully closed.
- A foul odor released from their back.
It is the natural defense technique that possums use when caught by a predator as a dead animal’s smell is unpleasant. It is an involuntary reaction and can last from a few seconds up to four hours. This defense mechanism is known as playing possum or playing opossum. (See 8 Types of Possums)
Baby opossums, on the other hand, are weak at playing possum. Therefore, they hiss, smack their teeth, or open their mouth to scare away the intruder. Adults also take up these tactics if they want to scare off humans or other animals. Unlike playing dead, these actions are, voluntarily controlled by them.
2. How Dangerous are Possums?
Any disease, which can be transmitted from animals to humans is known as a Zoonotic Disease. Possums carry a zoonotic disease Leptospirosis which is spread by their urine and feces (poop). Possums mark their territories by urinating, but if they are residing in their area or backyard, it automatically answers the question are possums harmful. According to the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Department, opossums are carriers of diseases like
- relapsing fever,
- Chagas disease,
- spotted fever, and
Are possums dangerous to humans? Yes, humans viz adults, as well as kids and other animals coming in contact with their excrete, are in danger of catching the diseases too. (See 11 Health Benefits of Eating Ice Apple Fruit)
3. How to Keep your Pets and Kids Safe?
- Kids’ immune system is weaker than adults’. They should not have access to any such place where wild animals visit.
- Since opossums will not intentionally attack any kid unless they feel threatened by the kid’s teasing, thus, kids should be taught which animal is approachable and when and how to approach them.
- It is highly impossible for opossums to attack an animal larger than them. As mentioned by the Opossum Society of the United States, there is a greater possibility of a dog killing opossum than the other way round. Cats are capable of killing small opossums however, adult opossums are, not endangered by cats. (See Can Possums be Pets?)
4. What Measures to take when Bitten by a Possum?
Are possums dangerous to humans? Well! they could be. It is essential to follow safety precautions while handling wild animals.
- If you came in contact with an infected and sick possum, immediately visit a doctor.
- But if they bite or scratch you, immediately wash the area/ areas with soap and water for several minutes.
- Visit your doctor within 24-hours of this incident to reduce the spread of any infection in your body. (See How To Tip A Cow?)
5. What to do if your Pet is Attacked by a possum?
Are possums dangerous to humans and pets alike? It is highly improbable that a possum will get into a fight with any pet animal or an animal larger than them.
- But if your pet was attacked by a possum visit a vet as soon as you find them behaving differently or aggressively.
- Although a possum cannot be rabid but still being precautious is necessary. So make sure to wear gloves while handling your pet.
- Call the vet and take the required precautions as instructed, until you reach the clinic. (Also read What is the Difference between Possum and Raccoon?)