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How opossums help fight ticks and Lyme disease

Opossums are nocturnal critters that may repel and disgust many, but they could be a important factor in keeping ticks and Lyme disease at bay. 

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On the heels of a mild winter in 2017-2018, one expert predicted a tick explosion this summer and that has parents concerned about the spread of Lyme disease. 

While some recommend spraying for ticks in your yard, opossums could be the natural key to warding off ticks. 

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, opossums kill around 90 percent of the ticks that attempt to attach and feed on them. 

The study notes opossums are particularly good at grooming themselves, which leads them to swallow most of the ticks that attach themselves. 

>> Related: University researchers find ways to battle Lyme disease in Florida

Based on a study conducted by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, researchers estimated opossums can kill about 5,000 ticks in one season.

“They’re net destroyers of ticks,” Cary Institute researcher Richard Ostfeld told

>> Related: Lyme disease cases on the rise : What is it and how to avoid it

Opossums are known for their ‘play dead’ tactic and that’s why some researchers urge people to avoid hitting opossums apparently lying dead in the road. 

Avoiding killing opossums could be a simple way of helping attack the tick population in your area. 

“Let’s embrace opossums and be thankful for the work they do in taking out ticks,” Krystina Snyder wrote in a letter to the Concord Monitor in May. 

According to the Dallas-Fort Worth Wildlife Coalition, “Opossums eat fruits, snakes (opossums are immune to all types of snake venom, except that of the coral snake), insects, snails, slugs, eggs, mice, rats, fish, frogs, crayfish, and carrion. If for no other reason than pest control, opossums are great to have around!”

>> Related: Tick bite? Get it tested to see if it’s carrying Lyme disease, here’s how

Opossums are the only marsupial native to North America. 

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