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Are Opossums blind?

Are Opossums Blind? Knowing Facts From Myths

Have you ever spotted an opossum rummaging through your garden at night and wondered if it could actually see what it was doing? Despite their nocturnal nature, there's a common conception that opossums are blind, but how much truth is there to this belief?

The opossum's unique biology raises various questions about its capabilities  this article aims to dispel myths and shed light on their real lives and habits. From their vision and habits to the best ways to coexist with them outside, you're sure to learn something below.

Opossum Anatomy 101

These creatures are a study in survivalist design, equipped with features that make them adept at thriving in a variety of settings. Their bodies are not just built for foraging and evasion; they are a testament to evolutionary adaptability.

An opossum's size can be deceiving; they are roughly the size of a domestic cat, with males typically larger than females. Their fur, a mix of white and gray, provides natural camouflage in the underbrush, while their bare tails, often misconstrued as grotesque, serve as an extra limb for balance and grasping. This prehensile tail is a hallmark of marsupials found in the Americas.

The opossum's face is pointed, with a noticeable pink nose that is always sniffing out opportunities for food. Their sharp teeth are a clear indicator of their omnivorous diet, allowing them to tackle a variety of meals from fruit to small rodents. Perhaps most notable, especially in the context of our nocturnal observations, are their eyes.

Opossums have a reflective layer behind the retina, known as the tapetum lucidum, which enhances their night vision. However, they do not possess the keenest eyesight – their vision is adequate but not their primary sense for navigating the dark.

Opossums are not blind but do have specialized vision

Deep Dive on Opossum Vision

While they may not win any awards for clarity or distance, opossums have developed a vision that serves them well in the low-light conditions they commonly navigate. The presence of the tapetum lucidum, which we mentioned earlier, is a reflective layer that aids their night-time activities. It's what gives their eyes a noticeable glow when caught in headlights or a flashlight beam, a phenomenon familiar to many.

This biological feature allows opossums to make the most of the limited light available at night, effectively doubling the light available to their photoreceptors. However, their vision isn't just about seeing in the dark. Opossums are believed to be colorblind, relying more on brightness than on color to discern objects and movement. This means that while they might not appreciate the full spectrum of your garden's colors, they're well-equipped to detect the silhouettes of plants, predators, and prey.

Contrary to the myth of blindness, opossums can see, just not in the way we do. Their vision is best suited for detecting movement, which is a crucial trait for an animal that must be constantly aware of potential threats. Opossums can spot a potential predator and make a quick decision – freeze and play dead or flee to safety.

It's important to note that while their vision plays a role in survival, opossums also rely heavily on their other senses. Their acute sense of smell is paramount in foraging, while their hearing is critical for detecting danger. These senses, working in tandem with their specialized vision, create a well-rounded sensory apparatus that allows opossums to navigate their nightly rounds effectively.

Other Opossum Observations

One of the most remarkable aspects of opossums is their robust immune system. Opossums have a natural resistance to certain snake venoms, allowing them to prey on snakes that would be dangerous to other animals.

This resistance, combined with their omnivorous diet, makes them versatile foragers. They consume a variety of foods, from fruits and nuts to insects, small animals, and even carrion. This dietary flexibility helps opossums to thrive in diverse habitats, including urban areas.

Playing Dead as a Defense

When threatened, opossums may exhibit an involuntary response known as "playing dead." This act, also called thanatosis, is a defense mechanism that can deter predators looking for a lively meal.

During this state, an opossum will fall to the ground, become stiff, and may even release a foul odor to mimic death. This convincing performance can last from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the level of threat perceived.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Opossums have a rapid reproductive cycle, with females capable of giving birth to multiple litters of joeys each year. The young opossums, born at an extremely underdeveloped stage, immediately crawl into their mother's pouch to continue their development. This marsupial reproductive strategy is efficient, allowing for high survival rates among offspring despite the numerous predators they face.

The lifespan of an opossum is relatively short, typically only two to four years in the wild. This short lifespan is compensated by their high reproductive rate, ensuring the continuation of the species despite the challenges of their environment.

Opossums and Humans

As opportunistic feeders, opossums are often drawn to human habitats where food is abundant. While they can help reduce unwanted pests like ticks and rodents, they can also rummage through garbage and gardens, leading to conflicts with humans.

To coexist peacefully with opossums, it's important to secure trash bins, avoid leaving pet food outdoors, and use fencing to protect gardens. Remember, opossums are generally non-aggressive and will avoid confrontation when possible.

Appreciating their role in the ecosystem and taking measures to prevent conflicts can lead to a harmonious existence with these fascinating marsupials.
Since opossums are not blind and see well at night, keeping yards clean helps prevent issues

Backyard Best Practices

With a few simple adjustments, you can keep your backyard in harmony and maybe even enjoy the perks these little critters offer.

Start by keeping your trash secure. A good lid on your bins can make all the difference. Remember, opossums and other rodents have a nose for pet food, so it's best to feed your furry friends indoors when the sun goes down.

Gardens can be a buffet for these guys, so a modest fence should help protect your veggies. They're not great climbers, so even a four-foot barrier can discourage them. Keep your yard tidy by clearing out brush piles and dense shrubs; it's less inviting for an opossum looking for a cozy spot. And if you're keen on technology, a bit of motion-activated lighting or a sprinkler might just do the trick in keeping them at bay.

To take it a step further still, consider employing a one-way door specific to opossum exclusion and removal, like the ones available from RNS Products. 

When to Call a Professional

While opossums play a useful role in our ecosystems, there are times when it might be necessary to call in wildlife experts.
  • Persistent Opossum Presence – If you notice an opossum consistently returning to your property despite taking preventative measures, a wildlife professional can identify what's attracting it and help secure your space.
  • Opossums in Your Home – Should an opossum find its way into your attic or basement, you'll want to safely remove the animal and seal any entry points to prevent future visits. 
  • Sick or Injured Opossums – If you come across an opossum that appears sick, injured, or behaves unusually aggressively, it's important to keep a safe distance and contact local animal control or a wildlife rehabilitation center.
  • Large Opossum Populations – When multiple opossums have taken up residence on your property, it could indicate a larger issue that requires expert intervention to address potential health risks and property damage.


In summary, the opossum's tale is steeped in myth, but armed with facts, we can see these creatures in a new light. They are not blind wanderers but resilient foragers, key players in controlling pests, and fascinating examples of adaptation.

Taking appropriate measures to live alongside them can minimize conflict and help us appreciate the unique role they play in our ecosystems. When challenges arise, browse top-notch pest control products and wildlife control supplies at RNS Products.
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