Monday, April 14, 2014


I’ve been noticing a lot of fresh digging in the yard and fields, so I decided to set one of the live traps and see what has been foraging during the nighttime hours.  It was no surprise to have the first capture be a Opossum.  Opossums are quick to enter a baited trap and after making a meal of the bait, settle down to await the door to be opened.  If you set your trap in the same location several nights in a row, the Opossums will sometimes make the trap a regular stop in their foraging pattern.

The bald patches around the eyes identified this individual as one I have been seeing regularly in the evenings.  Opossums have 50 teeth, more than any other Ohio mammal.  Add some hisses and a low growl and this animal can put on quite a threatening display.  It seldom bites, but I would rather not be the recipient of one of those rare attacks.

There are five toes on each foot and each toe, except the inside toe of the hind foot, has a well developed claw.  The claws are super tools for digging up grubs, worms and any other tasty morsels.  They also aid in climbing.

The tail is definitely rat-like with its scaly, naked appearance.  The tip of the tail appears to have been lost.  Damage to ears and tails from freezing temperatures is common.  Considering the many nights of subzero temperatures we experienced this winter, I’m surprised that this guy isn’t showing more damage.

One of my reasons for capturing these animals is to see what they are carrying in the way of an external parasite load.  Ticks find the Opossum quite attractive and I often find dozens of ticks around the ears and neck.  We usually have active ticks as soon as the temperature hits 70 degrees and we’ve had several days of temperatures in that range.  So far this year, I’ve seen no ticks and the Opossum seemed tick free.  I hope that’s a sign that it’s going to be a light tick year.

When caught in the open, a Opossum usually becomes immobile and waits for danger to go away.  If it appears safe to do so, the Opossum will begin to move slowly away.  Often it will rock forwards and backwards as if mimicking a small shrub being blown by the wind.  I had to back off about 40 feet before this guy began to move.

Once they reach some cover they pick up the pace.

After going about 60 feet through the tall grass, the Opossum broke into the open and raced along the tire tracks left by the electric contractors who installed new wire and poles last fall.  At the intersection of the old fence line, the Opossum took a quick turn and disappeared into a brush pile.  I imagine I’ll probably see him in the yard again this evening.


  1. Glad to see you are back!
    I always enjoy reading your posts and following your adventures. Nice close up look at this night-time forager, and I hope you are right about this being a light tick year!

  2. Thanks Cheryl. I was in the field for eleven hours today and came in with only one tick. That's not bad. My personal best is 23, but it's not a record I'm trying to beat.