Opossums or possum: what is the correct spelling? The answer is more complex than you may think.
The opossum received its name in the early 1600s from Captain John Smith of the Jamestown colony in Virginia. The name is derived from aposoum meaning "white beast". In the late 1700s, Sir Joseph Banks likened a furry creature he saw in Australia to "an animal of the Opossum tribe." The term for the marsupial that he spotted was shortened to possum.
So in fact, a opossum and possum are in fact two very different marsupial species.
The furry tailed possum belongs to the Phalangeridae family within the Marsupialia order and is primarily found in New Guinea, Australia Indonesia and other islands in the Pacific region. The bare tail opossum is North America's only known marsupial.*
Now that we know the correct spelling for the species found in North Amercia.... we've had a higher than normal number of calls for opossums this fall and winter compared to previous months. Opossums are primarily nocturnal (active at night). They are the only marsupial (pouch bearing) mammal in North America. They can have a litter up to 14 and a gestation period of only 2 weeks. Opossums are opportunistic scavengers and they will steal garbage and pet food which usually causes problems for people. They can distress pets, and if cornered, they can give a nasty bite. They often like to live under sheds or decks and in attics and crawl spaces. When an opossum lives in an attic or crawl space, they leave a lot of feces and they can spread fleas and other parasites. They can also cause destruction tearing up insulation and ducts. In addition, opossums very frequently die inside buildings, inside the attic or walls, and the smell of a rotting opossum body is horrible.
The best control methods are trapping and excluding any entries to prevent future entry.