Virginia Opossum at Night on a wood fence
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Are Possums Nocturnal?

Possums are mysterious marsupials who enjoy their evenings exploring urban landscapes like rooftops and backyards. While most animals may be more active in the light hours, possums have chosen nighttime as their time to thrive.

In order to coexist peacefully with our furry neighbors and protect ourselves from any potential harm, we need to understand their sleeping habits. We will explore possum activity and answer, “Are opossums nocturnal?”. 

Key Pest Points:

•  Possums are usually nocturnal but can come out during the day if injured, disturbed sleep, and more.

•  To prevent possums from visiting your property, seal entry points, keep a tidy garden, don’t leave pet food or rubbish outside overnight, and trim tree branches.

What Does Nocturnal, Diurnal, Cathemeral and Crepuscular Mean?

Before determining if possums are nocturnal, let’s look at the different animals with different sleep patterns to understand their behaviors. We will explore the four main sleeping patterns: nocturnal, diurnal, cathemeral, and crepuscular. This way, we can understand the different behaviors observed in animals.

Behaviors of Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal animals look for food and water to stay cool in the evening. They also use this time to hide from predators, look for mates and conserve energy. These animals may rest in sheltered areas during the day, and many prefer to come out in the dark.

Here are a few examples of nocturnal critters: 

Nocturnal AnimalsBehaviors
PossumsThese night time scavengers have impressive senses that help them find their next meal. Since they are omnivores, they can eat a variety of food from insects to berries. 
Foxes These expert hunters will feed on rabbits, rodents and even fruits. 
Skunks Skunks are nocturnal animals that love to scurry around at night to find food.

Nocturnal critters have incredible senses that allow them to hunt at night when most animals and humans are usually asleep. So, look out for them and don’t be surprised if you find one creeping around in the dark. 

Behaviors of Diurnal Animals

Diurnal animals are active during the day and spend much of their time looking for food, inspecting their surroundings, and interacting with other animals. Diurnal animals also use this time to build nests, mate, and protect their young. They might also need daylight to store energy, like reptiles that rely on the sun’s warmth for their body temperature.

Here are some well-known diurnal creatures:

Diurnal Animals Behaviors
SquirrelsSquirrels are diurnal animals that will spend a lot of time searching for food like nuts and insects. 
CrowsThese birds will eat a combination of plants and animals. 
DeerFrom forests to deserts, these mammals adapt to different environments and will take advantage of food during the day. 

Like humans, these diurnal creatures can be found searching for food and doing their daily chores during the day. You may even find them in your backyard looking for shelter or taking advantage of any food left behind. 

Behaviors of Crepuscular Animals

Crepuscular animals are primarily active at dawn and dusk. This behavior is helpful to avoid predators during the day and night. They also need the twilight to find food and communicate with other animals.

Here are some popular crepuscular animals: 

Crepuscular AnimalsBehaviors
RabbitsThese small mammals are no stranger to backyards, meadows and parks. They will eat anything from your garden produce to hay and grass. 
Bears Bears will eat anything from insects to berries and you may even find them scavenging food in trash cans at dawn or dusk. But they can also be diurnal, so don’t be surprised to see them in the daytime. 

It is necessary to respect these animals and their feeding habits. So, do not get in their way or they may get scared or even worse, attack to protect themselves and their food sources. 

Behaviors of Cathemeral Animals

Cathemeral animals do not typically have a pattern of when they are sleeping. They may have a period of activity during the morning, followed by rest in the afternoon, and resume activity at night. Cathemeral animals may take advantage of the different types of prey available day and night. They also might change their activity such as mating and hunting depending on the time of the year. 

Here are a few animals that follow these unusual sleeping patterns:

Cathemeral AnimalsBehaviors
Coyotes They typically travel alone but will sometimes travel as a pair to hunt down prey. 
BobcatFrom dense forests to swamps, you can find these ambush predators in a wide range of places. And will hunt its prey day or night. 
FrogThese cathemeral animals use their sticky tongues to catch their next meal day and night. 
LemursThey can switch between nocturnal and diurnal habits depending on the food availability.

Understanding the behaviors of these interesting cathemeral animals will help us appreciate and respect their living and feeding habits. 

Why Are Opossums Nocturnal?

Nocturnal possums have adapted to the dark and developed senses that help them hunt and locate food sources while avoiding predators in gloomy conditions. Their thick fur keeps them warm at night when temperatures drop lower than during daytime hours. It also helps to protect them against potential threats like owls, dogs, or snakes.

Furthermore, their eyes are attuned to low-light hunting giving these creatures an advantage over diurnal (daytime active) species. So come sundown, look out for prowling possums – you never know what surprises might await you after dusk falls.

Young North American opossum (Didelphis virginiana) sits on a fence near the house.

Do Possums Come Out During the Day?

Although possums are usually associated with the night, these fascinating creatures are often spotted exploring cities and suburbs during daylight hours. There could be a few different reasons why they do this: 

  • They may have been interrupted by humans or predators in their natural environment – leading them to look elsewhere during the day for food. 
  • Possums take advantage of daylight to catch a break from extreme temperatures. 
  • On chilly days, they can often take some well-deserved sunbathes, and on warmer days, they are trying to find shady places that provide much-needed relief.
  • It could show that the animal is sick or injured, as healthy possums tend to stay hidden during the day and only come out at night to look for food.

Finally, it is worth noting that possums are native wildlife and play an essential role in many ecosystems. If you encounter a possum during the day, treat it respectfully and allow it to continue without causing disturbance.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some possums, when threatened, can emit a repulsive odor like skunks though not as strong, so it’s best to keep your distance and let them be.

What To Do if a Possum Is on Your Property?

Did you spot a possum in your backyard? Don’t worry. It is just looking for shelter and food like any wild animal and chances are they won’t be aggressive. To prevent possums from visiting your property, you can:

  • Seal any potential entry points around the house.
  • Keep a tidy garden and remove food sources like pet food and bird feeders.
  • Don’t leave pet food or rubbish outside overnight.
  • Keep tree branches trimmed so possums cannot access your roof.
  • If needed, you can use possum-proof fencing to keep them out.
  • Possums will play dead, so make sure you are careful when handling these animals because they can be dangerous if provoked.
  • Place a humane possum trap to remove these animals without hurting them.

If you need help removing the possum, contact local wildlife rescue professionals who will know how to handle this situation and advise you on the best ways to prevent other animals from entering your property.

FAQs

Are possums aggressive?

Possums typically aren’t aggressive, though when threatened they will open their mount and hiss to bluff and intimidate their foe.

What time of night do possums come out?

It can vary depending on the time of year. However, they usually come out to do most of their activities between 6 pm to 8 am.

Where do possums hide during the day?

Possums typically hide in safe and dark places during the day, such as hollow tree trunks, burrows, under decks or sheds, and in attics, amongst other sites. Giving possums the necessary space is crucial, and not disturbing them during the day is vital to give them the rest they need.

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