Here in South Louisiana, we are no strangers to critters walking (or slithering) among us. Raccoons, snakes, armadillos. They're everywhere, on land and in water. Opossums are pretty common here in the south. They're always viewed as a nuisance, but that view is changing.

Opossums are seemingly helpful creatures, despite the myths and their not-so-nice demeanor.

Via: Jack Bulmer
Via: Jack Bulmer
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According to Furbearer Conservation, the benefits of the opossum outweighs the negatives. In fact, there aren't that many negatives when you break it down. Let's break down some fast facts before we get into the nitty-gritty.

  • Opossums are North America's only marsupial -- meaning their young are raised in pouches, much like kangaroos.
  • Many people don't realize that there is a difference between opossums and possums. It's an entirely different species, actually. Here's more on that.
  • "playing possum" is more than just playing dead -- it's actually one of the animal kingdom's best defense mechanisms for a natural born prey.
Via: Mikell Darling
Via: Mikell Darling
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Opossums are extremely beneficial to have around when it comes to gardens and overall pest control, even though we commonly see them as pests themselves. Opossums eat everything. From trash to chickens to berries to snakes (even the venomous ones) -- they are the ultimate pest control.

Their migration patterns have also taken a turn over recent years. They are more likely to be seen up north, and sometimes even in the daytime when they are known to be mostly nocturnal. Scientists have deemed them to be extremely beneficial for a multitude of things, including some that can be life-saving to humans.

Here's a busted myth about opossums - they're one of the LEAST likely to contract the rabies virus in the mammalian species. The Furbearer Conversation crunched the data and only 1 in 800 opossums contract the disease. This is attributed to their lower-than-normal body temperature where rabies cannot thrive.

Another really cool thing about opossums -- they're ass-kickers when it comes to ticks and Lyme Disease. Opossums are a magnet for the ticks that are the main spreader of the disease to humans, but they're also meticulous groomers. Opossums can potentially consume up to 5,000 ticks that carry the disease just with grooming.

So, if you see an opossum roaming around your yard or along the fence line, leave them be. They're helping you out, one way or another. Friendly pest: let's coin that term.

Venomous Snakes in Louisiana