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Do Possums Attack?

Do Possums Attack?

By Mildred T Koerner on May 16, 2023

Have you ever come across a possum while hiking or camping and wondered if they are aggressive creatures?

It is a common misconception that possums are dangerous and can attack humans.

As a wildlife biologist, it is important to understand the behavior of these fascinating nocturnal marsupials and dispel any myths surrounding their potential threat to humans.

Possums have gained a reputation for being vicious animals due to their intimidating appearance and tendency to hiss or bare their teeth when feeling threatened.

However, in reality, possums are generally solitary and non-aggressive towards humans.

They prefer to avoid confrontations by playing dead, also known as 'playing possum,' rather than attacking.

In this article, we will explore the truth behind whether possums attack humans and what measures you should take if you encounter one in the wild.

Understanding The Behavior Of Possums

Possums are fascinating creatures that belong to the marsupial family.

They are primarily nocturnal animals, which means they are most active during the night.

Possums have a unique adaptation that allows them to see in low-light conditions, making it easier for them to navigate and find food.

Speaking of food, possums aren't too picky when it comes to their diet.

They mostly feed on small insects, fruits, and vegetables. However, they can also eat small mammals like rodents or even carrion if necessary.

Despite their scavenging tendencies, possums play an important role in maintaining ecological balance by consuming pests and keeping disease-carrying organisms at bay.

Common Myths And Misconceptions

Understanding the behavior of possums is crucial in order to dispel common myths and misconceptions surrounding these fascinating creatures.

One such myth involves their tendency to attack humans or other animals.

However, it is important to note that possums are generally non-aggressive and prefer to avoid confrontation whenever possible.

While possums may hiss or show their teeth as a form of defense, they typically only resort to physical violence if they feel threatened or cornered.

In fact, one of the most beneficial aspects of having possums around is their role as carriers for various diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

As long as we respect their space and treat them with care, there is no need to view possums as pests or potential attackers.

Despite their relatively peaceful nature, possums do possess natural defense mechanisms that allow them to survive in the wild.

These include playing dead when faced with danger - a tactic that often tricks predators into leaving them alone - as well as strong claws and sharp teeth for fighting off threats when necessary.

By understanding how these unique adaptations have helped possums thrive over millions of years, we can gain a greater appreciation for these remarkable animals and all they have to offer our ecosystem.

Possums' Natural Defense Mechanisms

Did you know that possums have a unique natural defense mechanism when they feel threatened?

These creatures are known for 'playing dead' or feigning unconsciousness, which can last up to six hours!

When playing dead, possums become stiff and still, with their tongue hanging out of their mouth.

This often tricks predators into thinking the possum is already deceased and not worth attacking.

However, if playing dead doesn't work, possums will resort to hissing and growling as a means of scaring off potential threats.

Although they may look cute and cuddly, these animals are fierce fighters when it comes down to protecting themselves.

As wildlife conservationists, we encourage people to respect all animals in their natural habitat and avoid confrontation whenever possible.

How To Safely Encounter A Possum

When encountering a possum, it's important to remember that they are generally non-aggressive towards humans.

However, if you do find yourself in close proximity to one, there are some precautions you can take to ensure your safety and the well-being of the animal.

Firstly, avoid surprising or cornering the possum as this may cause them to feel threatened and react defensively.

Secondly, keep your distance and resist the urge to approach or touch the animal.

Possums have sharp claws and teeth which they use for self-defense when feeling threatened.

Lastly, if you encounter a sick or injured possum, contact a wildlife rehabilitation center rather than attempting to handle it yourself.

Possums can be found throughout North America and thrive in a variety of habitats including forests, fields, and urban areas.

They are opportunistic feeders with an omnivorous diet consisting of insects, small mammals, fruits, vegetables, and carrion.

By understanding their habits and behaviors we can coexist peacefully with these fascinating creatures while respecting their space in our shared environment.

In conclusion: Possums are generally non-aggressive towards humans but it's important to exercise caution around any wild animals.

By following simple guidelines such as keeping your distance and contacting professionals when necessary we can safely enjoy encounters with these amazing creatures without compromising their well-being or ours.

Conclusion: Possums Are Generally Non-Aggressive Towards Humans

As a wildlife biologist, I can say with confidence that possums are generally non-aggressive towards humans.

Despite their sharp teeth and claws, they do not pose a significant threat to people or pets.

In fact, possums are more likely to play dead than attack when confronted with danger.

While some may consider keeping possums as pets, it's important to note that they are wild animals and require specialized care.

Additionally, possums can carry diseases such as leptospirosis and salmonellosis which can be transmitted to humans through contact with their feces or urine.

It's essential to consult with a licensed wildlife rehabilitator before attempting to keep a possum as a pet.

In conclusion, while there is always the potential for any animal to become aggressive if provoked or threatened, possums are generally docile creatures who prefer to avoid confrontation.

However, it's crucial to remember that they are still wild animals and should be treated with caution and respect.

As we continue our efforts in wildlife conservation, let us strive to protect these fascinating marsupials and appreciate them from afar in their natural habitats.


In conclusion, after delving into the behavior and natural defense mechanisms of possums, it is safe to say that they are generally non-aggressive toward humans.

Despite common myths and misconceptions, possums do not attack unless provoked or threatened. They prefer to play dead or run away when faced with danger.

As a wildlife conservationist, I urge people to view these marsupials as important members of our ecosystem.

Possums help control insect and rodent populations while also serving as prey for larger predators.

Let us appreciate their unique characteristics instead of fearing them based on misunderstandings.

Let us remember that just like how possums have their own ways of defending themselves, we too can protect ourselves without resorting to violence or harm towards animals.

By respecting their space and allowing them to exist in their habitat peacefully, we can coexist with nature in harmony.


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