Possums have been on this planet for centuries. From being a favorite snack for dinosaurs to being a commonly seen species in Australia, they have a lot of evolutionary history to share. Being a species that has survived for such a long period has always been a matter of interest for the scientific community.
Among the many reasons as to how possums survive for such a long time owes greatly to the dietary pattern they have developed over the years. They can virtually eat anything edible ranging from fruits, vegetables, & insects to small animals.
So do possums eat snakes? Yes, possums do eat snakes. They will feed on everything available in their immediate environment including venomous snakes. Possums are found to be immune to the venom of most snakes which makes it perfectly safe to eat snakes. Scientists have figured out that there is a compound in possums’ blood which makes it immune to snake venom.
In this article, we will discuss in detail the dietary pattern of a possum, the reason why possums are immune to snake venom, and a lot more interesting facts about these marsupials.
Hop on folks, let us get going!
- Diet of a Possum
- Can possums eat snakes?
- How do possums eat snakes?
- Are possums resistant to snake bites?
- Can possums eat all snakes?
- Is it safe to have possums around in our surroundings?
- 10 snake species possums love to kill and eat
- Is it true that Possums die of fear?
- Is it true that possums are Immune to rabies?
Diet of a Possum
As mentioned earlier, the dietary pattern of the possum is what has helped them survive for these long periods of time. They are found to feed mainly on dead animals, insects, birds, rodents, eggs, plants, fruits & snakes.
An interesting fact about the diet of a possum is that they eat the skeletal remains of animals that have been killed on the road. Possums need a high amount of calcium in their diet, which explains them eating the skeletal remains.
Can possums eat snakes?
Yeah, possums do eat snakes and they are found to be immune to most snake venoms. Though they can eat snakes, that doesn’t mean they go around hunting them.
Possums eat snakes only when they find one along their trail and only if it is going to be an easy catch. They don’t really fancy feeding on snakes.
Not all snakes fall prey to possums and there are certain snake species that pose a serious threat to possums. Though possums have a compound in their blood that counters the venom of most snakes, they don’t do well against the venom from the elapid snakes. In such cases, the possum may end up being prey to snakes.
How do possums eat snakes?
Before we proceed further, it is important that you understand that irrespective of being venomous or non-venomous snake meat is edible. Of course, it is illegal to hunt snakes for consumption. A snake’s venom is only dangerous when it comes in direct contact with blood.
When it comes to possums they aren’t hunters rather they are scavengers. As discussed earlier, Possums eat snakes only when they find one along their trail and only if it is going to be an easy catch. They don’t really fancy feeding on snakes. Basically, they prefer eating dead snakes rather than hunting one.
Possums can hunt snakes if they choose to because they have a peptide in their blood that can act against a snake’s venom. Possums are resistant to venoms of most venomous snakes including the diamond bask rattlesnakes & India’s deadly Russell viper.
That being said, possums are not resistant to venoms of all snakes for instance, the venom of an elapid snake is deadly for a possum. When it comes to big snakes the hunter becomes the hunted!
Are possums resistant to snake bites?
Yeah, possums are resistant to the venom of most snakes that you can name. This ability of possums had always intrigued the scientific community for ages because one compound against all snake venoms is too good to be true. There has been a lot of research going on to figure out how this works.
It wasn’t until recently scientists identified the presence of a peptide strand in the possum’s blood that’s capable of neutralizing the snakes’ venom. Now they are trying to figure out how a single peptide is able to counter the hundreds of compounds that are there in a snake’s venom.
Recently, scientists have successfully isolated the peptide strand that’s countering the venom of snakes. They believe that this can pave ways for the mass production of cheap and universal anti-venom that could be revolutionary in the treatment of snake bites.
Can possums eat all snakes?
No, they cannot because possums are not resistant to every snake bite. Though they have an anti-venomous peptide in their blood that doesn’t protect them from the snake venoms that are neurotoxins. In such cases, possums do not take chances by trying and hunting them down.
As mentioned in the earlier sections, possums are more of scavengers than hunters. They will eat all dead snakes irrespective of whether they have a neurotoxic venom or not.
Possums do not go anywhere near large snakes because of size matters. Though possums are resistant to most snake venoms, the non-venomous big snakes are found to hunt and eat the possums.
Is it safe to have possums around in our surroundings?
Yeah, it is safe to have possums living in our surroundings. The presence of possums will alert snakes, including the venomous and the non-venomous ones because of their natural resistance to snakes venom. If you have a possum living in your surroundings, the chances of encountering a snake are very less.
Another benefit of having them around is that they can keep the population of rodents at check. Possums love eating rodents. Possums are known for being fastidiously clean like a cat and they are one of the mammals that cannot carry a rabies virus. So the claim of them carrying pathogens & deadly diseases are not true.
10 snake species possums love to kill and eat
As discussed in the earlier sections, possums don’t fancy eating snakes. They are more of opportunistic hunters though they are immune to snake venom. Now let’s have a look at the 10 snake species possums happily feed on:
- Indian Russel Vipers
- American rattlesnakes
- Cat-eyed rear-fanged snakes
- Timber Rattlesnakes
- Water Moccasins
- Tiger rattlesnakes
- Copperhead snakes
- Eastern coral snakes
- Prairie Rattlesnakes
Possums are more of scavengers than hunters. Especially when it comes to snakes, they prefer being scavengers. Only when it is going to be an easy catch possums hunt snakes.
Is it true that Possums die of fear?
No Possums do not die because of sudden shock or extreme fear. It is a common misconception among many people that possums die of extreme fear or sudden shock but that is not true.
Though possums are immune to snake venom and at the time they hunt small animals include snakes, they are not aggressive. If you have ever seen a possum, you might have seen them running away from you. Possums, in general, are not aggressive creatures and cannot handle extreme shock or fear.
Now, let us have a look at what happens when a possum it is subjected to extreme fear or shock.
As mentioned earlier, possums are not aggressive animals.
Their methods of defense include growling & running the other way round. But that is not the case when possums are subjected to extreme threats, for instance, a dog or a fox uncaught.
Possums enter a catatonic state when they are threatened. This is not something they do voluntarily rather it is an involuntary action. When caught unaware a possum may drop to the ground, stop breathing, discharge its bowels, and even start to drool. No matter what predators do possums will not move a hair.
Though this is an involuntary action, it is an extremely efficient defense mechanism against a bigger predator considering the extreme of confusion it can cause. By all indications, a possum may appear to be dead, which is going to turn off the predators.
It can take the possums anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours to regain consciousness and move again. Though playing dead can help them survive they might still get injured seriously. Many wildlife observers have seen possums wandering in the wild with unhealed fractures and wounds.
Is it true that possums are Immune to rabies?
Yes, possums are immune to rabies. In fact, they are one among the few animals immune to rabies. Their immunity to rabies virus has got nothing to do with the peptide in their blood that acts as an anti-venom.
Possums have a very low body temperature making it virtually impossible for the rabies virus to survive in a possum’s body. Not just rabies, possums have an innate ability to stave off many deadly diseases. It is for this reason why it is safe to have possums around in your neighborhood.