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All mammals can carry rabies. However, it's actually very rare for possums to carry the disease. This is party because opossums have a slightly below average body temperature, and the rabies virus can't thrive at this lower temp. Read the guide What Diseases Can Opossums Carry?
All wild animals come with a risk of disease, which is why you want to use extreme caution when dealing with anything, such as the lowly opossum, when it comes to into your yard or home. Of course, the last thing that you will want to happen is for your pet to become ill when coming into conflict with these wild creatures, and this is very much so the case with rabies – a disease that many wild animals can carry with them.
For the most part, you can protect your pets by having them vaccinated against rabies. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you and the rest of your family are protected. Although the chance of an opossum having rabies is incredibly rare, it is still wise to approach or deal with these animals with extreme caution, not just because of the risk of disease, but also to avoid being bitten or scratched by the critter once it feels threatened and lashes out.
So, why is it incredibly rare for an opossum to have rabies? The answer lies within their internal body temperature. In this animal, the temperature is so low, usually around 94-97 degrees Fahrenheit that the rabies virus struggles to survive. This is what is thought to be the reason behind it anyway; scientists are apparently still studying this fact.
In short, although it is rare for your friendly neighborhood opossum would be running around with rabies, you still want to be careful and ensure that the kids stay away from wild animals, the pets are vaccinated and you avoid them coming into conflict with them, and at the same time, you take the necessary precautions to ensure that you are never putting yourself at risk of getting bitten, scratched or in contact with potentially dangerous diseases.
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It is a known fact that the opossum is a nocturnal animal and it is very rare to see one being active during the daytime. It is however, not impossible to see an active opossum leave its den to traipse around in daylight due to certain uncommon circumstances. And yes, the most common of these is that the critter is sick or rabid.
The opossum is a known carrier of the rabies disease. Rabies is an acute disease usually transmitted by the bite of an infected animal. All warm-blooded animals are susceptible to the rabies virus, but most reported cases are from dogs, cats, and bats. Once infected, the virus affects the brain before spreading to other body organs.
A rabid, sick or injured opossum moves around during the day as one of the symptoms is listlessness - moving from one place to another in a restless manner. In addition, a rabid opossum is going to display a heightened aggression that is rarely seen in healthy opossums. Another symptom to look out for before ruling that the day-active opossum is rabid, is that it will show an unnatural boldness around humans. It would not slink away to hide as is normal.
Other reasons why an opossum could be active during the day include a quest for warmth. This only happens during the winter periods however, it may find its winter shelter too cold and come out to seek warmth elsewhere.
During spring or summer also, when a female opossum has just given birth to baby opossums (joeys), the mother may be forced to go out during the day to find food for itself or the babies. Thus, your wandering possum may be a mother actively foraging for food during the day.
On a few occasions, an opossum may be active during the day due to the disturbance or destruction of its shelter. Say for instance, an opossum that lives in the attic, shed or porch of a house is being hunted by the homeowner, dogs, or predators, it may be compelled to move out during the day when it ought to be inactive.
It is therefore safe to say that an opossum found to be active during the day is not necessarily sick, injured or rapid, even though this is the most common reason.
Nevertheless, it is advisable to stay clear of any opossum that is active at day time, for the benefit of all doubt. If you do suspect that an animal is rabid, do not attempt to go close to it, but call in your local animal experts.
Go back to the Opossum Removal page.