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Opossum vs Possum, is there a difference?

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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CWU chapter.

Are the words opossum and possum just a different way of saying the same thing? Are people just dropping the letter O? And does it really matter? You might be surprised to know that they are actually different animals that live on completely different continents. Don’t worry, I’m here to set the record straight and help you have the facts to back it up. 

Opossums are the little white, gray, and sometimes brown marsupial creatures that live in North America. I am from Washington State and I remember seeing one of these little guys in my backyard when I was little. They often have adorable pink noses and pink hand-like feet. In contrast, possums live in Australia but they are also in the marsupial family. 

If opossums could star in any movie, I think they’d fit perfectly in the Fast & Furious movies. Because they only live up to two years on average, they have to make each moment count. Although, I don’t mean that they are speed racers and I would not place my bet on them in a race. Rather, their life stages progress quickly. Because they are members of the marsupial family, the mothers give birth to babies that will live in her pouch for the first few weeks, before riding on her back. These moms have their hands, and pouches full, as they can have up to 13 babies! 

Opossums can also “play opossum” or “play dead” when they are frightened. They can even release a smell to help predators believe their acting skills. 

Opossums often get a bad reputation because they are opportunistic eaters, unfortunately, this means you might find them in your trash. However, secure lids with a heavy top or even a lock can help prevent this from happening. Although their diet may look less than ideal to us, they are beneficial to have in your yard or garden, as they will eat various pests like snails, slugs, and other insects. 

They are mainly active at night, so keep your eyes peeled for these cute little critters who may be in your yard. Although they look cute and fluffy it is best to leave wildlife alone and observe from a distance. And as usual please do not feed wildlife. 

Hello, my name is Enjoli and I am double majoring in Primate Behavior & Ecology and Anthropology. I am very passionate about animals and conservation. In my free time I love painting, hiking, baking, and other forms of creating.