The Virginia Opossum and their ecosystem benefits

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Happy #sciencesaturday everyone!

This week we are focusing on North America’s only marsupial – the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) and the amazing ecosystem benefits they provide!

One of our Research Associates, Michael Carr, photographed this adorable opossum traversing through one of our mountains’ snowy hollows. 

But why, you may ask, is the Virginia opossum so important for our ecosystems? Beyond being a ferocious tick-eater, they eat many other animals that are commonly considered pests, carrion (dead animals), and will do a bit of gardening for you – eating slugs or snails and even over-ripe fruit and berries

Opossums, like many other animals, are a natural host for ticks. But, unbeknownst to the ticks, opossums are very good groomers, and consume about 90% of the ticks that try to make a meal out of them. Check out this photo we shared of an opossum eating ticks off of a deer!

So, next time you see an opossum stop and consider the many benefits it provides to our ecosystems!

By the way, contributing to our community science projects (like snapping photos of our flora and fauna) can be as easy as uploading your #bullrunmountains observations to @inaturalistorg! We have an ongoing iNaturalist Project: The Preserve at Bull Run Mountains and we would love to see your contributions!

If you are not sure how to use the app, but are interested in participating – just reach out to our Preserve staff and they will help get you started!

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