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Nature & You: Can opossums rescue us from bloodsucking ticks?

With its pointy snout and jagged teeth, the opossum isn't always a pretty sight, but could this scraggly animal help rid our yards of annoying ticks? [Thinkstock]
With its pointy snout and jagged teeth, the opossum isn't always a pretty sight, but could this scraggly animal help rid our yards of annoying ticks? [Thinkstock]

Most of us are no stranger to the opossum.

We've seen them ambling across the road as we're driving home late in the evening.

Either that or we've caught them red-handed as they made one of their nighttime raids on our outdoor garbage cans.

The sight of an opossum usually elicits a sense of revulsion from most of the people to whom I've talked. For one thing, there's that menacing, toothy grimace on their face when we approach. Other people tell me the opossum's fur appears unkempt and unattractive.

There's not much I can do to allay those concerns. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there are just going to be those folks who don't think opossums are pleasing to the eye.

What I've found amusing, however, is some recent news stories about the research results of some investigators — purporting that opossums are major predators of ticks.

That's all well and good, but I just don't buy it.

I fail to be convinced that opossums would be adept at searching out, capturing and consuming a substantial number of ticks. Are we to think that opossums could sate their appetites by eating tiny creatures like ticks? I think not.

To my way of thinking, it sounds more like somebody's attempt to spin some positive publicity for what they have determined is an unjustly maligned animal: the opossum.

Science is science.

I will wait for the arrival of some irrefutable research data which proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that opossums are subsisting on a meal of minuscule creatures such as ticks.

Neil Garrison

Neil Garrison is an outdoor nature enthusiast. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University/Stillwater; he earned a B.S. degree in Wildlife Ecology. Prior to his 2009 retirement, he was the Naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center for 30... Read more ›

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