Zoo Buddy: This animal gets a bad rap, but they’re very helpful

Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 10:32 AM CDT
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - Opossums are a very valuable animal to have in your yard! They can get a bad rap, but they have so many benefits.

“This is Asa, he’s a Virginia opossum,” says Julie Bassett, a Zookeeper at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo. “Opossums tend to get a bad rap, [people] they think they’re pests, they’re getting into trash, they’re just unsightly or they stink, they’re gross, they’re not really that way. They’re actually very good for the ecosystem and the environment they’re like nature’s garbage disposals, so they’re omnivores which means they eat like everything and they tend to scavenge a lot so like they pick up a lot of the dead and decaying vegetation, fruits, and dying animals and stuff like that. But they are opportunistic, so if you leave your cat food or trash without a lid on it they tend to get into that and that’s where people get upset at the opossums. They are actually really, really good for this area specifically because they eat a ton of tics, so they’re great pals for hunters.”

Bassett says they’re the only marsupials we have in North America.

“The females have pouches and once they get pregnant they can have up to like 20 babies and they actually will only remain pregnant for about 11 to 13 days, the babies come out the size of a bumblebee and they actually crawl on the outside of their bodies against their fur into their pouches where they attach to nurse,” explains Bassett.

She says many opossums end up in rehab centers because they get hit by cars.

“A lot of times they’ll come across a mama with a pouch full of babies and the babies won’t be able to survive, so if you do find an opossum on the side of the road it might have babies in it,” says Bassett. “If that happens to you make sure you call your local wildlife agency, make sure and turn them in. They are really amazing, great to have around. If it weren’t for these guys we would have so much rotten plants and foul smell, we’d be covered in tics.”

They’re open every day of the week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and you can call them at (318) 329-2400 for more information. The train ride, boat ride, and reptile building are all back open too!

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