virginia opossum predators
December 21, 2020
An opossum’s front and rear tracks are usually close together, with the rear track falling on top of or just behind the front track. An increase in mesopredator populations is a potential consequence of habitat manipulation and fragmentation (Oehler and Litvaitis 1996). Bidwell T. G. Engle D. M. Moseley M. E. Masters R. E.. Bothma J. Du-P. Nel J. Join the thousands of Active Wild subscribers who receive free wildlife and science news & info direct to their inboxes! Basal area (m2/ha) was calculated for groups of tree species (eastern redcedar, oak, nonoak deciduous, and total) at each trapsite. Our study area was anthropogenically manipulated similar to the way the landscape is changing in the region. Kissell and Kennedy (1992) reported a nonsignificant positive association between opossums and raccoons. How? Traps were set in four 12-ha grids of 8 traps in each study area. S.. Novak M. Baker J. At a landscape scale, opossum abundance was related to latitude (associated with croplands), more heterogeneous landscapes, and high densities of riparian areas. We acknowledge our lack of replication, but note that our study represents the 1st report of experimental manipulation coupled with work at multiple scales to examine relationships between these key mesopredators. Captures from 1999 and winter 1998 could not be used due to lack of corresponding vegetation data. Within a home range, animals make finer scale use of land based on factors such as food availability and competitive interactions (Pedlar et al. Niche breadths of both species were wide in our study for both species, as expected for generalist omnivores, and did not change with raccoon removal. (1997) noted that micro-habitat variables provided insight into the mechanism behind landscape patterns of raccoon activity. They can also swim or climb to escape from danger. (1999) reported that 13 of 15 raccoons translocated from rural areas in Illinois that survived to the end of the tracking period in each of 2 years moved <10 km from their release sites. 1987). S. D. Gehrt reviewed an earlier draft of the manuscript. ActiveWild.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon stores. In control areas, raccoons and opossums were captured and released at the capture site; in removal areas, raccoons were removed from the capture site whereas opossums were released on site. The areas were separated by 400 m and none of 31 radiocollared female opossums were located in both areas. Pedlar et al. In this inactive state it lies limp and motionless on its side, … Mesopredator trapping.—Trapping was conducted seasonally in 1998–1999 before raccoon removal (preremoval period), then bimonthly from January 2000 to January 2001 with raccoon removal (postremoval period). If such interactions are removed, resource use may shift. One area served as the control, and the other area served as the treatment, or raccoon removal area. 1991). For each trapsite, we sampled understory cover by the Daubenmire method (Bonham 1989) in a 1-m2 plot at each trap site and in 1-m2 plots 10 m from a trap site in northeast (45°), southeast (135°), southwest (225°), and northwest (315°) directions. It is believed to have been borrowed from the Powhatan language and derived from a Proto-Algonquian word, “apousoum,” which means “white dog or dog-like animal.” They have a reputation as being very slow and clumsy. When threatened, they lay on their side with the intent to deceive predators into thinking that they are injured or dead. Because many of these species are not strictly carnivores, probability of overlapping use of habitats (Shirer and Fitch 1970) and foods increases. When threatened and escape is no longer an option, Virginia Opossums will hiss and gape at foes. We compared micro- and macrohabitat selection of the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) between areas with and without removal of the raccoon (Procyon lotor), a putative competitor, in a fragmented habitat in north-central Oklahoma. A distribution-free Monte Carlo permutation test (n = 999 permutations) was used to provide significance values for the constrained axis. The Virginia opossum, the only species in the U.S. and Canada, has the scientific name of Didelphis virginiana. To account for a possible year effect, we calculated L for opossums caught postremoval and raccoons caught preremoval in the control area. A threatened Virginia opossum typically reacts to danger by baring its teeth and growling, but under extreme stress it may fall into an involuntary coma-like state. Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), grama grasses (Bouteloua), purpletop (Tridens flavus), ragweed (Ambrosia), and buckbrush (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus) are prevalent in the under-story (Ewing et al. Envelopes with solid lines and samples indicated by x represent trapsites with ≥1 captures in the removal area in 2000. Although both species are known to prefer areas associated with water, trap success and distance to permanent water sources were not related in either control or removal areas (Ginger 2002). Study area.—The Cross Timbers ecoregion, dominated by oak (Quercus) forest interspersed with tallgrass prairie and invaded by eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), covers large parts of central Oklahoma and Texas. Twenty-two raccoons were translocated (3 returned to the removal area and were trapped a 2nd time). The females have from 1 to 3 litters per year, each consisting of up to 30 young. Biplot for 1st and 3rd principal component axes of scores for microhabitat vegetation and opossum capture samples in summers (April–August) 1998 and 2000 on Cross Timbers Experimental Range, Payne County, Oklahoma. Its eyes and mouth will remain open, its tongue will hang out and its breathing will become shallow. Mean coefficients of association were negative at the micro-habitat scale but positive at the macrohabitat scale, although results at both scales varied temporally. Traps within grids were placed in 2 parallel rows of 3 traps 300-m apart with traps spaced at 200-m intervals. 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At a local scale, opossum abundance showed no consistent relationship to edge, whereas raccoons were more abundant in forest-agriculture and forest-riparian edges. 1974). The behavior is more common in young opossums. The species appears to be spreading further north. Abbreviations are as follows: GRASS = percentage grass cover; FORB = percentage forb cover; LTTR = percentage miscellaneous litter cover; CEDBA = basal area (m2/ha) of eastern redcedar; CEDCT = count for eastern redcedar in 0.025-ha plot; DENS = density of canopy cover (%); TOTCT = total trees present in 0.025-ha plot; TOTBA = total basal area (m2/ha) of trees; LEAF = percentage cover of hardwood leaf litter; OAKCT = count for oaks in 0.025-ha plot; OAKBA = basal area (m2/ha) of oaks; NOAKBA = basal area (m2/ha) of deciduous nonoaks; NOAKCT = count of deciduous nonoaks in 0.025-ha plot. Overlap in habitat use between raccoons and opossums increased upon raccoon reduction compared with lack of a similar change in the control areas. 1974). They suggested that habitat preferences by each species were independent of the occurrence of the other species. The Virginia Opossum can be found in the United States and Canada. Change their habitat, they adjust to a new one. The nipple expands when the baby opossum begins to feed, effectively attaching the newborn to its mother. Virginia opossums eat almost anything, including fruit, insects, earthworms, eggs, nestlings, birds, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, and carrion. Mesopredator release has been implicated in driving some species to extinction (Courchamp et al. The Virginia opossum has many predators, including coyotes, red foxes, raccoons, bobcats, domestic dogs, owls and large snakes. A removal experiment is an effective way to study competitive interactions, due to its controlled nature (Connell 1975). Opossums have existed since the Pliocene Epoch, two to five million years ago. Palomares F. Gaona P. Ferreras P. Delibes M.. Seidensticker J. O'Connell M. A. Johnsingh A. J. T.. Soulé M. E. Bolger D. T. Alberts A. C. Wright J. Sorice M. Hill S.. Stritzke J. F. Engle D. M. McCollum F. T.. Verschuren D. Tibby J. Sabbe K. Roberts N.. White P. J. Ralls K. Vanderbilt-White C. A.. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. Males have scent glands that produce a musky odor just before the mating season, while female scent glands guide newborn young towards the pouch. Opossums have many predators including dogs and large snakes, birds of prey and humans. Opossums are known for their defense tactic of faking death. Live trapping conducted in 1998–2001 resulted in 482 total captures of opossums. Its front feet have five clawed toes. We demonstrated a shift in microhabitat selection on the basis of trap-site characteristics selected by opossums in an area of reduced density of raccoons. We set 8 additional traps in a buffer area surrounding the treatment grids to reduce raccoon immigration into removal grids. 2). The difference in overlap between opossums captured in removal sites postremoval compared with preremoval (L = 1.04) and for control opossums in control sites for the same time periods (L = 1.07) approached significance (t0 = 1.37; d.f. 1992; Schoener 1983). Virginia opossum facts, pictures, video and information. Theoretically, competitive interactions among mesopredators will increase as their populations increase. The Virginia opossum is found on the East and West coasts of the United States, and in northern Mexico. The 2 most correlated microhabitat variables for the 1st axis (percentage leaf litter, percentage grass cover) and 3rd axis (number of cedar trees, cedar basal area) were chosen to compare opossum selection differences between areas in 2000. We released animals on site, except for raccoons captured in the removal pastures in 2000–2001, which were translocated >10 km from the study area. The Virginia opossum is rated as ‘ Least Concern ’ by the IUCN. We thank J. Weir and the staff of the OSU Research Range for assistance with research and prescription burning of CTER. During 2 years of study, Mosillo et al. Schoener (1983) noted that greater niche overlap in food type or microhabitat implied a greater tendency to compete than to overlap at larger scales. Macrohabitat.—For the 1998–2000 comparisons of trap captures with habitat patch, there were no significant 3-, 4-, or 5-way interactions and no significant year or treatment effects for either species, so years and treatments were combined and analyzed for each species separately. In the United States the Virginia opossum is found east of the Rocky Mountains and in Canada in southwestern Ontario. In the control area, where raccoons and opossums co-occurred, opossums were captured in sites characteristic of deciduous forests of the Cross Timbers ecoregion (Fig. Our results suggested that opossums and raccoons competed for resources at the microhabitat scale in CTER and that reduced densities of the competitor allowed a niche expansion by opossums. Diet The Virginia opossum is nocturnal and uses its keen sense of smell to locate food. Diameter breast height (DBH) of stems ≥5 cm DBH were measured and counts of coarse woody debris (≥10 cm DBH) recorded in a circular plot of 8.93-m radius (0.025 ha) centered at the trap site. Previous work on ecological relationships of these 2 species has found only minor evidence of competition in terms of habitat use (Kissell and Kennedy 1992; Ladine 1995), although direct interference in the form of the killing of opossums by raccoons in enclosure experiments has been observed (Stuewer 1943). PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS. This research was approved by the Animal Care and Use Committee at Oklahoma State University (OSU). The Virginia opossum usually sleeps in a cozy spot during the day. The sensitive whiskers around its face and muzzle help it feel its way in the dark. However, many predators are not inclined to eat opossums, in fact, young orphaned Bobcats being rehabilitated refused to eat dead opossums but ate most any other meat. Variables investigated included treatment (control, removal), species (opossum, raccoon), period (preremoval = May, July, October 1998–1999; postremoval = May, July, November 2000), selection (use or availability), habitat (cedar forest, deciduous forest, grassland, mixed forest), and all interactions. We do not report statistical comparisons of capture rates of raccoons between the 2 areas because, although we had 4 grids in each area, these grids were not independent relative to raccoon ranging behavior. 1990). Niche breadth and overlap.—Both species, regardless of treatment or period (1999 and 2000), had large niche breadths (≥0.95), but niche overlap varied. Capture data for opossums and raccoons on treatment areas at the Cross Timbers Experimental Range, Payne County, Oklahoma, before (1998–1999) and during (2000–2001) removal of raccoons. We chose to investigate opossum habitat selection upon removal of the raccoon, because although the 2 species are similar in terms of habitat use, opossums have a more r-selected life history (Seidensticker et al. This is the genesis of th… The other 2 traps in the grid were placed 200-m apart between the 2 rows. Further studies should be conducted to address effects of mesopredators on other animal populations, especially potential prey such as birds, in the Cross Timbers ecoregion. An adult Virginia opossum reaches roughly the size of a domestic cat. Habitat manipulation alters composition and structure of animal communities, and the most important and large-scale cause of habitat manipulation is expansion and intensification of land use by humans (Andren 1994). It uses abandoned burrows, hollow logs, tree cavities, woodpiles and buildings for shelter during the day, moving from one denning site to another frequently. Do not bury it right away! It can stay in this state for up to 6 hours. You can see what the Virginia opossum looks like in the video below: The South American ancestors of the Virginia opossum moved to North America about 3 million years ago. 1984). Overlap of habitat patches between raccoons captured preremoval and opossums captured postremoval was high, suggesting a shift in habitat selection. The relationship between niche overlap and competition is complex (Holt 1987), poorly defined in the literature (Krebs 1999), and therefore our results should be interpreted as suggestive. Able climbers, opossums occupy a variety of habitats as long as water is available. Individuals of both species were captured at the same location, indicating a significant amount of spatial overlap. Opossums have 50 teeth, more than any other North American land mammal, and opposable, clawless thumbs on their rear limbs. However, opossums and raccoons used available habitat at different times during the day (based on time at capture), thus partitioning habitat temporally and reducing interspecific competition (Ladine 1997). The symbol + indicates selection for and the symbol - indicates avoidance of a particular habitat based on Bonferroni intervals (Neu et al. This is not to say that the opossum doesnâ€™t have predators, of course, and in fact, even smaller animals can outsmart this opossum. Although 4 raccoons (2 female, 2 male) were trapped in both areas in 1998–1999, none were captured in both areas during the experimental phase (2000–2001) of the project. Our findings were consistent with those of Ladine (1995), showing a niche shift by opossums at the microhabitat level (Fig. It prowls along the ground or climbs trees. Conversely, Ladine (1995) found evidence of interactions between the 2 taxa for spatial attributes and habitat use. Opossum is an Algonquin Indian name meaning "white animal." Habitat and Range. Habitat selection across all treatments for a) opossums (n = 284) and b) raccoons (n = 139) caught in 1998–1999 (May, July, October) and 2000 (May, July, November), Cross Timbers Experimental Range, Payne County, Oklahoma. Other comparisons across time and area revealed no differences in overlap (P > 0.20 for all comparisons). The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial that occurs naturally in the United States and Canada. We hope that you have enjoyed finding out about the Virginia opossum. Animals: The Ultimate Guide To The Animal Kingdom, Tiger Facts, Pictures, Video & In-Depth Information. Predators of opossums include coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, raptors, and domestic dogs. It tends to prefer wet areas like marshes, swamps and streams. A marsupial is a mammal that has a pouch where it carries its young. The 2 most correlated variables as determined by the vegetative variable scores for the 2 most correlated principal components were chosen for significance testing in univariate analyses (t-tests) for opossum captures in 2000 (Mellink 1991 used similar methods). Opossums are highly adaptable and range throughout Kansas, but are most common in the eastern part of the state where deciduous forest, wooded riparian zones, and water sources are most common. After they leave the pouch, the young will either climb onto their mother’s back or stay behind in a den while she forages. We investigated two 130-ha study areas on CTER blocked by major vegetation types, which were characterized as cedar forest, oak forest, grassland, and mixed brush. Animals prefer landscapes that offer a greater chance of encountering resources that are necessary for survival. 1988). Trapping effort equaled 3,840 trap-nights in 1998–1999 before removal and 5,010 trap-nights in 2000–2001 during removal, with 669 total captures of opossums and raccoons on the study areas (Table 1). News and facts about animals, natural history and science. The Virginia opossum is also a common sight in suburban environments. To account for a treatment-area effect, we calculated L for opossums and raccoons caught preremoval in the control and removal areas. Virginia opossum, Didelphis virginiana, sitting on top of a fence. These species co-occur throughout much of their distribution and associated habitats, have similar omnivorous food habits, and display similar resource use (Gardner 1982; Kaufman 1982; Kissell and Kennedy 1992; Lotze and Anderson 1979; Shirer and Fitch 1970): Food habits have been investigated for comparative purposes without determining interspecific interactions (Hamilton 1951; Stieglitz and Klimstra 1962; Wood 1954), although an increase in the potential for interspecific interactions that may lead to exploitative or interference competition does occur with species that consume similar prey items (Ladine 1997). Wright (1977) reported that the direction of dispersal by translocated raccoons in Kentucky was random. Recently one of our rabbits had a close call with a dog attack, this made me start to wonder, what are some other possible rabbit predators, and because I see opossums around here, I wondered if they were one of them? Total opossum captures were calculated per trapsite per month, with data from April to August used for the summer 1998 period, and from May and July for summer 2000. For these and other analyses, we chose P < 0.05 as indicating significance, and we report P-values between 0.05 and 0.10 as approaching significance and worthy of note (Robinson and Wainer 2002). The species’ behavior gave rise to the phrase ‘playing possum’. To … Prey partitioning, both spatially (Litvaitis 1981) and temporally (Bothma et al. Studies of ecological relationships between raccoons and opossums in Tennessee arrived at different conclusions regarding the influences of habitat and spatial scale. Raccoons were more abundant in agricultural areas with high densities of streams than forested areas with low densities of streams (Dijak and Thompson 2000). We predict that, if increases in mesopredator abundance are real and continue, competitive relationships among these generalist species will become more evident. Capture rates on control grids were qualitatively higher both before and during raccoon removal (Fig. In some cases, they will fall over and play dead, hence the term “play possum”. Sites where opossums were captured in removal grids in 2000 were compared with the other 3 grid-season combinations as 1 class. 2). 1995; Soulé et al. If a competing species is removed and habitat segregation results from interspecific interactions, then other species should demonstrate competitive release characterized by a shift in habitat selection (Löfgren 1995). Note how the hind tracks overlap the front tracks. We suggest that opossums and raccoons are responding differently to the same scale of heterogeneity, but tele-metric monitoring is necessary to fully evaluate comparative habitat selection by these species. Analyses using vegetative data from winter 2001 (end of the removal period) revealed a similar difference in selection, but unlike summer, we did not have pretreatment data collected in winter to strengthen our inference (Ginger 2002). Effort was split evenly between areas. It can tolerate relatively arid environments but prefers wetter areas such as thickets and woods near streams and swamps. 1987; VanDruff 1971; Verts 1963) in similar habitats. In suburban environments Virginia opossums will also eat pet food and garbage. Opossums do not hibernate in winter, and need to find a warm place to make their nest. In areas with reduced densities of raccoons, however, opossums were more likely to select trap sites with characteristics associated with eastern redcedar forest. it eats both plants and meat) that eats a wide variety of foods. 2). Geographic Information Systems analyses at the habitat-patch scale revealed no differences in habitat selection after raccoon reduction. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide, This PDF is available to Subscribers Only. The Virginia opossum is noted for reacting to threats by feigning death. Sometimes the opossum will even release a musky, decay scent. Did you know?Opossums use their tails to brace themselves while climbing trees. To sample overstory and midstory cover, 4 canopy cover and 4 visual obstruction measurements were averaged from the five 1-m2 plots at each trapsite using a densiometer (Bonham 1989) and 1-m board with alternating 0.1-m dark and light blocks, respectively. For raccoons, that interaction approached significance (P = 0.061), with deciduous forest avoided after Bonferroni correction (Fig. The Virginia opossum ( Didelphis virginiana) is the only marsupial native to North America. Most studies of carnivore synecology have identified potential patterns in interspecific competition, such as those between coyotes and bobcats (Felis rufus—Litvaitis 1981; Litvaitis and Harrison 1989; Major and Sherburne 1987), coyotes and foxes (Cypher 1993; Cypher and Spencer 1998; Theberge and Wedeles 1989; White et al. The Virginia possum is well-known for playing dead when it is threatened. We chemically immobilized (8 mg/kg Telazol; Fort Dodge Animal Supply, Fort Dodge, Iowa), ear-tagged (Monel #4; National Band and Tag, Newport, Kentucky), and took morphological measurements on captured opossums and raccoons. Copyright © 2020 ActiveWild.com. The 1st axis, explaining 18.8% of the variance, represented a gradient from grassland to forest (Fig. Opossums protect themselves from predators by “playing dead,” since most predators will not eat an animal that is already dead. However, no mention was made of directional movements or homing toward the original capture point. The Virginia opossum can be found in a wide variety of habitats from forests and open woodland to marshes and farmland. 2), whereas the 2nd axis, explaining 9.8% of the variance, defined a gradient from xeric upland to mesic lowland. = 167; P = 0.05) on removal areas (1.14) than on control areas (0.91) during the post-removal period (Table 2). Opossums are marsupials, mammals that undergo the early part of their development in their moth… Redundancy analysis can explicitly investigate and statistically test relationships between species and environmental variables (Verschuren et al. But think it ’ s animal, effectively attaching the newborn fail to find out more and to and... Which means pretending to be small, and the majority of young are born February... Lies stiff and motionless news and facts about animals, natural history science. Control grids were placed 200-m apart between the 2 rows used due to its controlled nature ( Connell 1975.. 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