Studies show that if you seen an opossum around your neighborhood, you should consider yourself lucky. While they look like the type of animal that would spread disease, the truth is that their appetites for ticks makes them effective in stopping diseases spread by them.
Tick populations are on the rise, and just three types of them can carry 15 diseases, including Lyme. The medical community has realized that Lyme Disease is often misdiagnosed and that the disease is more prevalent and problematic than previously known. Scientists are testing ways to limit the transmission of Lyme Disease by limiting record-high tick populations through natural ecosystems.
A study compared squirrels, mice and opossums, which all eat ticks, and found opossums were the most effective ecological traps. Researchers found that ticks favor opossums twice as much as the other animals, and opossums are the most effective at killing ticks. Opossums kill almost every tick that occupies them; a single opossum kills over 5500 ticks per week.
Effective at eating disease-causing ticks, opossums are resistant to many diseases themselves. According to the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, opossums are rarely found to be rabid and are gentle. If they feel really threatened, the worst they do is play dead.
Scientists aren’t suggesting breeding vast populations of opossums, but they say we should be happy that they are a part of our ecosystem and that we should let them live and do their part to fight tick populations.