In efforts to reduce the number of stray cats and dogs running loose in the community, McAllen city officials have suggested a 60-day moratorium on picking up opossums to focus on domestic animals.
McAllen Animal Control wardens normally pick up opossums, cats and dogs and deliver them to Palm Valley Animal Shelter in Edinburg, where the latter two are prepared for fostering or adoption, while opossums are let loose into rural areas.
District 5 City Commissioner Victor “Seby” Haddad said in a news release Tuesday that McAllen’s hope for the moratorium is that it will help the community understand the marsupial’s “beneficial nature.”
A common misconception about opossums is that they carry rabies despite being immune to the viral disease.
Opossums are also immune to Lyme disease and rattlesnake venom.
The marsupials are often referred to as nature’s pest control and clean up crew as they eat snails, dead animals, small rodents and insects such as ticks, which one opossum can eat up to 5,000 in one season, helping control ticks in the area.
While opossums will hiss and bare their teeth when threatened, they commonly don’t attack and faint or “play dead” from fear.
Although they may be nuisances, the Virginia opossum is largely harmless and can be avoided if residents don’t leave cat or dog food or any sort of food scraps or trash out on their yards.
Opossums are territorial and control their own population as well.
The moratorium will begin July 12 and will continue through September 15.