Zoo Buddy: How opossums act as Louisiana’s little sanitation workers

Two baby opossums were found on the side of the road and are now part of the Education Department at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo.
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 4:15 PM CDT
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - Meet Eddie and Ellie! These two Virginia Opossums were found as babies on the side of the road and now they’re living it up in the Education Department at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo.

Lisa Taylor, General Curator at the zoo, says it’s great to have these guys to show off to visitors because most of the time you just think of them as roadkill.

“They’re the only marsupials in North America, that means that they are raised in a pouch like a kangaroo would be, but these guys are unique in the way that they don’t stay in the pouch as long as the kangaroo would [..] these guys will actually climb out of the pouch and hang out on their mom’s back,” explains zookeeper Kristen Beadle.

Taylor says they make up a big part of our ecosystem.

“They eat a lot of dead, debris things to clean up the roadsides but also these guys eat ticks and Louisiana is full of ticks. We’ve got to get rid of ticks because they cause Lyme disease, so they’re important in that aspect too,” says Taylor.

And they’ve got a smile that could dazzle any crowd.

“Another amazing fact about them is they are the only North American mammal with 50 teeth in their mouth and I’m sure you caught them yawning in the video and there’s a lot of teeth in there and they’re pretty sharp.”

“They’ll smile and, to us, it might look cute, but it’s actually them saying, ‘Please don’t mess with me. Please back off.”

Of course, playing ‘possum’ is one of their many talents.

“These guys can fake death. If a predator like a coyote is coming up to them, the opossum will fall over, go upside down and emit this funky smell and then after that, they will open their mouth up and stick their tongue out like they’re dead.”

The zoo is open every day of the week from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. They’re located at 1405 Bernstein Park Rd Monroe, LA 71202 and you can call them at (318) 329-2138 for more information.