Why do Opossums Play Dead?

Opossums are not well equipped when it comes to aggressive attack or defense. They don't run fast but they are capable to swim and climb trees. When attacked, they will try to leave dangerous impression on attacker, playing tough: they will start crawling while at the same time opening their mouth wide to present their numerous sharp and strong teeth as well as strong jaw, they will hiss, grown and screech, all in effort to scare away the attacker. In some cases this tactic will work and when it doesn't Detroit opossums play dead. This is another defense tactic used by many different rodent species that basically consists of pretending that Michigan animal is dead. Opossum will lay on side, curl, open eyes and mouth with teeth bared.

At the same time, tongue will be poking outside and Detroit animal will drool immensely. This tactic is supposed to de-motivate attacker, make him loose interest for opossum that is playing dead. Opossums really manage to play dead well-they reach almost catatonic state, will stay completely unaffected to poking or any other action during this state. They can play dead from few minutes to few hours, which is a remarkable capability, also used by majority of other Michigan rodents as well as hog-nosed snake.

During this state, Detroit opossum can withstand significant amount of abuse. It has been discovered during examination that some opossum skulls have had significant, well healed fractures of bones that some larger animals would never survive. When a Michigan opossum is caught by other animal or human, part of his playing dead disguise is that he will usually defecate and secrete green secretion that is released from paracloacal glands located near the cloaca which is just by the tail base. This secretion has a smell of decomposition which is supposed to lead the aggressor to believe that opossum is decomposing and that it would be a better idea to find a fresh prey.

It has been discovered that their playing dead has in some causes really caused them life, because people have run them over with the car (because they played dead in the middle of the road) or decided to bury them (because they believed Detroit opossum to be dead, as it didn't move even when it was in the grave). Opossums are very good at defensive behavior which is generally the case because they are not aggressive Michigan animals and don't have aggressive skills, like majority rodents don't. They are primarily about finding food (and eat almost everything). They usually don't even attack for the food, but just want to defend themselves.

Visit our Detroit animal removal home page to learn more about us.