Lyme disease seems to be on the mind of just about anyone who spends much time outdoors during the summer. Ticks are abundant, and preventing oneself from coming into contact with one of these tiny insects is next to impossible.

This is where the possum comes into play. Possums seem to be everywhere. Whether they get caught in your best coyote trap, are foraging through your garbage at night, sleep under your porch, or just turn up as roadkill, I’m sure you’ve seen your share of these prehistoric creatures. All the while, they’re reducing the tick population — which in turns lowers your chances of getting Lyme disease.

Opossums, like many other small- and medium-sized mammals, are hosts for ticks looking for a blood meal. But opossums are remarkably efficient at eliminating foraging ticks, according to a researcher.

“In a way, opossums are the unsung heroes in the Lyme Disease epidemic,” says Rick Ostfeld, author of a book on Lyme disease ecology and a senior scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

“Many ticks try to feed on opossums, and few of them survive the experience. Opossums are extraordinarily good groomers, it turns out. We never would have thought that ahead of time, but they kill the vast majority — more than 95 percent of the ticks that try to feed on them.

“So these opossums are walking around the forest floor, hoovering up ticks right and left, killing over 90 percent of these things, and they are really protecting our health.”

I’m sure most of you reading this have made a joke or two about why the possum crossed the road. Well, it turns out they’re useful in ways we never knew! I’ll still throw out a joke here and there, but I’ll also appreciate what they’re doing for us.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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Jason Houser is an avid traditional bowhunter from Central Illinois who killed his first deer when he was nine years old. A full-time freelance writer since 2008, he has written for numerous national hunting magazines. Jason has hunted big game in 12 states with his bow, but his love will always be white-tailed deer and turkeys. He considers himself lucky to have a job he loves and a family who shares his passion for the outdoors. Jason writes full time and is on the pro staff of two archery companies; in his free time, he fishes and traps as much as possible.