Possums are the subject of a lot of misunderstanding. Most people have one of two reactions to them. Either they think they're cute and harmless, or they want to kill everyone they see. This is especially true if they're in your backyard.

On the side of people who think possums are cute is the Twitter account for @PossumEveryHour. This Twitter bot posts a different possum photo every hour, 24/7, although new Twitter rules may put a damper on this page.

Here in Texas, the most common possum or opossum is the Virginia opossum. It is illegal to keep them as pets as they are classified as wild animals. In Texas, possums are also classified as furbearers. It is legal to trap them if they are causing damage. However, their pelts can only be sold during the furbearer season and with a proper license.

That's one coat I don't think I would want to wear, but I digress.

There are a lot of people who hate possums, and that is at least partially due to a belief in things that aren't true. Here are some common possum misconceptions.

1) Possums carry disease: Even though they eat trash, possums are a very clean and healthy animal, according to the Wildlife Center of Texas. Because they have a low body temperature, most diseases can't multiply fast enough to overwhelm a possum's immune system. They are considered a dead-end rabies host.  This means you can't get rabies from a possum.

2) Possums are aggressive animals: Possums have more than fifty pointed and ferocious-looking teeth.  They have more teeth than any other native animal. They hiss and growl, and they will show you their teeth. Despite all that, possums are not aggressive animals and are not harmful to pets or children. Generally, they will flee from danger or "play possum."

This is an involuntary reaction. When they enter a state of shock, their bodies become stiff, and their breathing slows down. Then, the musk glands are released, and they drool. This makes them look and SMELL dead.

Why should we embrace the lowly possum?

They eat a lot of things we don't want around. They will eat almost anything. They are the only mammal that eats snakes, including poisonous snakes. Their metabolism is so slow they are not susceptible to venom. Possums will keep harmful snakes away from your property.

Possums also eat ticks. They kill 95% of ticks that try to feed on them. This means they are protecting the health of you and your pets. They eat cockroaches, termites, mice, beetles, ants, grasshoppers, lizards, and anything dead.  They are like a whole housekeeping crew for your property.

If you see your trashcan turned over and dragged across your yard, don't blame the possum. This is more likely the work of raccoons. Although, a possum will dine on whatever spills out. Sometimes, they crawl into trashcans and then can't escape. The sudden appearance of a possum in the trashcan has probably caused a lot of people to wet their pants.

In conclusion, I feel it necessary to mention that the words "possum" and "opossum" are proper grammar and refer to the same creature. Opossum is most often used in a scientific context.  It is also most often used by some northerners. Since these people generally don't eat tamales, what words they do or do not use are not important.

Possums deserve our respect. Perhaps they would get their due if they were more good-looking. I have two words--possum makeover. Maybe if more people subscribed to @possumeveryhour they would come to see possums as beautiful.

Standards of beauty are constantly changing. A hundred years ago, pale and extreme thinness was considered the hallmarks of true beauty. The next time I see a possum in my yard, I will say, "what's up?"  If he doesn't play dead, he might even consider it a neighborly gesture.

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