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Opossums have a semi-prehensile tail which is a very useful tool that has evolved over the generations, and it is a fairly long tail that is the only part of the animal, along with the paws and the nose that isn't covered in fur. When you see an opossum moving most people will not pay a particular attention to the tail, but if you do manage to see the opossum while it is climbing in the trees, you will really see the tail and how it is vital to the opossum.
The Biology Of The Tail
The interesting part of the tail is that it has scutes, which is a layer of bony plates that not only help to protect the tail, but also help to add strength which is useful for several of the uses that opossums make of their tail. Although the tail is strong, it isn't really strong enough to hold the weight of the animal, and this is only the case for young opossums.
Can Opossums Hang From Tree Branches By Their Tail?
This myth about opossums hanging from the trees by their tail is likely to be one started by people who have seen baby and juvenile opossums doing this, but the adult opossum cannot hang for more than a few seconds using its tail alone. The most common idea is that opossums do this while sleeping, but in truth an opossum will usually sleep in a den, often found in the trees, but while the tail may help to support the animal, the opossum doesn't hang as it is often depicted.
Use While Climbing Trees
One of the real benefits for the opossum of having such a tail is that it can be used to help the animal balance while it is climbing trees, and its strength also means that it can be used to propel the opossum through the trees at times.
Carrying Material With The Tail
Another of the reasons that the opossum tail is particularly useful is that it can be used to transport material that the opossum wants to use for its nest, and the tail can curl up to grip different items. From twigs and pieces of wood to leaves and other soft materials used to make the nest comfortable, the opossum will climb a little slower while carrying material with its tail, but is still very agile.
For more information, you may want to click on one of these guides that I wrote:
How much does opossum removal cost?
- get the lowdown on prices.
How to get rid of opossums
- my main opossum removal info guide.
Example opossum trapping photographs
- get do-it-yourself ideas.
Opossum job blog
- learn from great examples of opossum jobs I've done.