For small mammals like the opossums, it can be very challenging to thrive in the environment, especially with the presence of bigger animals in the wild. They always become targeted as prey because they are easy to hunt and kill.
In order to survive, these creatures have learned to adapt in different ways. This includes their defense mechanism to “play dead,” where they feign death to protect themselves. However, opossums are not always successful con artists. Fast, powerful, and ferocious animals in the wild can capture them before they even take action. Let’s identify these predators!
What Eats Opossums: Animals That Prey On Opossums
The ecosystem cannot be in balance without turning its organisms into predators and preys. So even with the opossum’s “playing dead” skill, they cannot avoid being hunted and killed by other wildlife. The natural predators that eat possums include the following:
The red fox is one of the most popular opossum predators. They are cunning and quick, which makes it difficult for the opossums to escape. When they see a good opportunity, these animals will immediately pounce on their prey.
Red Foxes are the largest of the true foxes. They have long cone-like snouts and red fur across their face and all over their body except their stomach which is white. They love to lurk around open areas of woodlands, wetlands, brushy fields, and both rural and suburban neighborhoods.
The opossum, raccoon, rodent, and hare are included in foxes’ favorite food. They mostly hunt alone or in pairs at night, no wonder how the nocturnal opossums turn into poor little prey.
Hawks are also one of the animals that consume opossums. These birds of prey have a sharp sense of sight and can spot their target from far away. Once they aimed their target, they quickly dive usually from a concealed perch and grab their victim with their sharp talons. They usually go after young and small animals, which makes young opossums an easy meal for them.
These creatures are birds of prey or raptors from the Accipitridae family. Like many other birds, they are tetrachromats, meaning they have four types of cone cells in their eyes that enable them to see a wider range of colors than most animals. This gives them the amazing ability to see small animals from very far away.
There are different species of hawks and they exist on many continents. The most common ones that hunt opossums are Cooper’s hawk, red-tailed hawk, and broad-winged hawk.
Opossums become no match for these predators as they can be easily killed and eaten. Like hawks, owls are tagged as ruthless birds of prey that feast on small mammals. They have a great sense of hearing, which allows them to locate their prey even in complete darkness.
Owls are the night-active counterparts of the diurnal hawks. Their size range is similar to each other, about 13–70 cm, and wingspans between 1–6.6 feet, although owls belong to the lower end of the given range.
The infamous great-horned owls are known for preying on small mammals like the opossums. They are found in wooded areas across North and South America and are known to be one of the most fierce predators in the wild.
Cats are not only house pets, but they can also be ferocious predators in the wild. They are known to be one of the main animals eating opossums.
There are different types of cat that hunts opossums. The most common ones include bobcats, cougars, and lynxes. These felines are mostly nocturnal and are very skilled in hunting their prey.
Bobcats are the most common type of wild cat native to North America. They exist from across southern Canada through the conterminous United States and Oaxaca in Mexico.
These medium-sized cats have tawny brown fur with black spots and streaks on their body. One of their key features is their short “bobbed” tail that can be up to 12 inches. They can weigh between 11 and 30 pounds, with males being larger than females.
Their diet consists of small mammals like rabbits, squirrels, ad rodents, with baby opossums being their favorite snack.
Cougars are also known as pumas, mountain lions, or panthers. They are the largest felines in the Western Hemisphere and the third largest in the world. Male cougars can weigh up to 200 pounds while females can reach up to 140 pounds.
Cougars also have tawny-colored fur with black markings on their face, similar to lions. They can live up to 13 years in the wild and up to 21 years in captivity. They are best tagged as skilled hunters, preying on animals as large as deer. However, they will also eat smaller prey such as rodents, rabbits, and even baby opossums.
You may compare lynx as a more conniving and fiercer version of house cats. They are wild cats that range across Europe, Asia, and North America. They are similar in appearance to other wild cats such as the cougar and bobcat, but they have black tufts of hair on the tips of their ears.
These felines are nocturnal hunters and use their sharp hearing and vision to help them find their prey. Their diet consists of mostly rabbits, but they will also eat possums, rodents, and birds.
Dogs are considered to be man’s best friend, but they’re one of the worst enemies to opossums. Even these domesticated dogs that we have at home can pose a threat to these small marsupials. These animals are often used by humans for hunting purposes. They have a strong sense of smell, which helps them track down their prey.
The most common type of dog that hunts opossums are coyotes. They are found in wooded areas across North America and are considered to be one of the most dangerous predators in the wild.
Other predators from their family that religiously eats opossums and other small mammals are wolves and dingoes.
Of course, humans cannot be taken off the list. We are the most intelligent creatures on Earth and we have the ability to hunt any animal we want.
In North America, opossums are not commonly hunted by humans. But in some parts of the world like Australia, they are often killed for their meat. This does not occur that often though, as these species are legally protected. Also, they have a bad reputation for carrying parasites if cooked the wrong way, the same as every rodent and other mammals.
Opossums more often get killed by humans on the road- hit by cars. Opossums have poor hearing and eyesight during the day, so they’ll likely get hit when they cross roads. But even if they notice them coming, they might feel threatened and “play dead”, so they still fall victim to roadkills and the speeding wheels of vehicles.
How the opossum defends itself
Opossums are expert bluffers. They are known for their “playing dead” tactic, like fainting, which they use to defend themselves against predators. This usually happens when a predator is attacking them or if they’re caught in the middle of the road.
When they do this, they roll over on their side, drool, and close their eyes, then release a fluid near their tail that makes an overpowering and unpleasant smell, making predators move along the trail.
In addition, opossums hiss and growl when they feel threatened. They also bare their teeth and release a saliva foam to warn predators to stay away. But they’re not actually aggressive. They only do this to fool predators and pretend they’re ferocious too.
Did you know that…
- The Virginia opossums are the only marsupial native to North America. Other 100 species are found in South America.
- “Playing possum” or “Playing dead” is not a voluntary action of opossums. This is actually an immediate and involuntary defense mechanism to drive out their preys.
- Opossums are arboreal marsupials, which means they live on trees and they are animals with pouches (female opossums).
- The Virginia opossum and the common opossum are not the same species. The common opossum is Didelphis marsupials in scientific terms, while the Virginia opossum is Didelphis virginiana .
- Female opossums eat usually give birth to as many as 25 baby opossums.
- Opossums have prehensile tails, similar to monkeys. They are not a carnivore or a scavenger, but an omnivore. Their food sources include snakes, reptiles, eggs, etc. Interestingly, they are immune to snake venom and other pit vipers.
Need Help With Removing Possums on Your Property?
If you have possums messing up your yard then the best way to get rid of them is to hire a professional opossum removal service like AAAC Wildlife Removal. We will come to your home or office and take care of the problem for you. We have the experience, knowledge, and tools to get the job done right.
Spotted opossums on your property? Waste no time, and give us a call now!
So there you have it! Opossums being small and vulnerable have many predators. Although they have evolved defenses, they are still prone to be attacked and killed by other animals. This predation and preying pattern is an endless cycle of the environment. It may be a harsh reality for opossums, but it holds a great contribution to the balance of the ecosystem.
If you see an opossum in the wild, it’s best to leave it alone and let it be. And if you ever need help in removing them, don’t hesitate to contact AAAC Wildlife Removal.