I've always liked these guys, especially after gently consigning a big one to the great outdoors after discovering his quiet invasion of the dog's food bag, happily scarfing down the chow with nary a care in the world. :) Gnarly, as per the Atlantic article, is apt but also is the benign impact possums have on the environment as they are intense insectivores with a predilection for ticks, vicious little vampires carrying Lyme and other such diseases, ready to be injected into your blood stream after finishing up it's meal.
When she makes her nighttime appearance—in a leafy corner of the yard, maybe, or along a power line slung across an alley—you’ll see her eyes first, two bright-greenish orbs, floating side by side in the gloom. Your own eyes will adjust to size up her lurking silhouette: two ratty ears, candy-corn teeth, a loaf of a body, and a spindly tail behind her. She might gape or hiss like she craves human flesh, sending shivers up your spine. At first glance, this lumbering night creature might seem more foe than friend. But look closer and take her in: a harmless opossum, in all her scruffy glory.
Today, the Virginia opossum can be found basically all over North America: in cities and suburbs, fields and forests. One interloping opossum was recently tossed out of a Brooklyn bar. She thrives alongside humans, and she thrives without them, too. In his 2016 essay titled “Everything What’s Wrong of Possums,” the writer Daniel M. Lavery wondered what, exactly, an opossum eats: “IS IT FRUIT? IS IT … NIGHT DIRT? IS IT OTHER RATS?” The answer is yes. The opossum shovels up all of those things like the Dyson of the natural world. She savors carrion, cockroaches, earthworms, and insect exoskeletons. She feasts on small mice, and ticks that attach themselves to her hide. In cities she gobbles down rotten vegetables, bones, and greasy paper from your garbage. She scavenges—she cleans the streets! Opossums “have their own job,” Donna Holmes Parks, a biology professor at the University of Idaho, told me. And for all that hard work, she added, “they deserve to be admired.”