Are There Opossums in Arizona?
Excerpt from Valley 101: A Slightly Skewed Guide to Living in Arizona, a collection of Clay Thompson’s columns for The Arizona Republic. (Originally published April 5, 2002.)
Q: My wife swears she saw an opossum the other night while walking the dog in our Mesa neighborhood. I think she was seeing things. Settle our bet. Are there opossums in Arizona?
A: Are there opossums in Arizona? Are you kidding?
Why do you think some parts of the state are uninhabited? There are opossums out there the size of St. Bernards, mutated by the drift from nuclear testing back in the ’50s. Their teeth are as long as car keys, and they are notoriously short-tempered. In 1973, a group of Boy Scouts camping near…
OK, I made that stuff up. I thought it might be more interesting than the real answer, which is: Sort of.
There are opossums in Arizona, although it is highly unlikely that the missus saw one in Mesa. Unlikely, but not impossible.
Arizona’s opossum population mostly confines itself to the area from Tucson south to the border. That’s fine with me. I think opossums are sort of creepy. I had a teacher once who looked like an opossum. She was creepy, too.
The only things I like about opossums are the names of all the different types—Central American wooly opossum, Alston’s mouse opossum, Virginia opossum and my favorite — Gray’s four-eyed opossum. I have no idea if it really has four eyes. I doubt it. It’s just a cool name.
Anyway, researchers used to think our opossums were ordinary opossums somehow transplanted from the East. (Who would drive an opossum to Arizona?) But it turns out they are a subspecies of Mexican opossums that has moved north and expanded its numbers during the wet years a couple decades ago. Mexican opossums have longer, darker tails than common opossums, in case you were wondering.
In the course of looking stuff up, I also came across some recipes for cooking opossum. As a public service, I will not be printing them here, and you may not call and ask for them. They’re enough to make you retch.
I wonder if this person may have caught a glimpse of a coati or a ringtail. I could see how they’d be easily mistaken for an opossum.
I did opposum rescue when I lived in San Diego. Their are actually very helpful little critters and pretty easy to catch, just pick them up by the tail and stick them in a cat carrier. They eat bugs, are not territorial, and they are immune to rattlesnake venom and they eat them too. I’m not to sure about scorpions but I think it’s safe to guess that they eat those too. I would rather find an opposum in my yard than a rattler or scorpion.
I have been feeding a Opossum for a month, with fruits and Cat food. It is very shy and coms at Night. I am close to the Border. I think it is very need.
Well, I was up late one night, bout 2am, and hear some ruckus outside.. looked down the street about 35 maybe 40 yards, and there were these ugly looking things standing on 2 legs in the street, snarling.. I thought, are my eyes playing tricks on me… or was I dreaming or what… had no clue what they were, my eyes were not fully adjusted to the darkness.. But there were 7 or 8 of them.. some small, and some big…I yelled at the top of my lungs, for them to GET……. and by did they scatter, right up a huge pinetree. Never seen something move so fast in my life… and these things were not cats.. they were about as far from cats as you can get.
I live about 13 miles north of downtown phoenix..in a regular neighborhood.. No clue where these things came from, or what they were.
I’m glad there are opossum in Tucson, where I live. They eat snakes, even the most venomous of them. They have a special lethal toxin neutralizing factor in their blood that instantly neutralizes the worst snake venom (and bees and scorpions). I wish we had more of them around for that reason alone!
Hey, I saw an opossum this evening in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Yes, it definitely was an opossum. I used to see them in N.J. years ago.. he was really cute.. and he was just trying to scoot across the street that I was driving down. I was going very slowly, and I stopped and just watched him. Wow.. in 30 years living out here I have never seen one. Quite a pleasant find.
I have seen many skunks in the Rio Verde area down by the river, eagles too , but never an opossom.
I was bitten by a Javalina this past summer, quite severely in my calf. Required rabies shots and hospitalization… so be very careful if you happen upon them while walking at dusk, or any time you may see them on a hike or in your yard. They look quite innocent, but pack a very powerful bite… yikes. I am fine now… just left with some ugly scarring that will probably fade as the years pass.
I lived in the Phoenix area more than half of my life. I love the wildlife. I never saw any opossums, but I do believe they are there. Quick bit of history. We have possums up here in Oregon and they are not native. Some people say they were brought to Oregon and Washington as pets. They escaped and multiplied and are everywhere in the NW. Other sources say that during the Depression people migrating to the west were worried about food sources crossing the desert so they penned a few ‘possums’ and brought them along as emergency food. Whatever, they are an invasive species up here. So your joke about people driving them to Arizona might actually have a grain of truth to it!
I live off bell and the i17 I have a picture of a opossum on our wall in the back. It backs up to a shopping plaza. Was such a site to see one here