First things first, is it a possum or an opossum? How do you say it? Is it possible that both spellings can be correctly used?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "Both possum and opossum correctly refer to the Virginia opossum frequently seen in North America. In common use, possum is the usual term; in technical or scientific contexts opossum is preferred. Opossum can be pronounced with its first syllable either voiced or silent."

We've learned about plenty of animals that you can or can't legally own as pets in Iowa over the years. Can you legally own a skunk? What about a Coyote? Have you ever been interested in owning a piranha?

If you find a possum in your backyard, you might be surprised to find out that they are great neighbors! According to USA Today, possum's kill around 5,000 ticks a season, they eat cockroaches, rats, mice, and snakes. They can potentially be a nuisance if they want to live under your porch or deck but you could have far worse problems than a possum hanging out around your house. Imagine a colony of bats wanting to live inside your attic...Yikes.

If you wanted to make a possum a member of the family, can you legally do so in Iowa?

Unsplash - Mikell Darling
Unsplash - Mikell Darling

Is It Legal?

You might be surprised to learn that there are a ton of states where owning a possum is perfectly legal. Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Michigan allow residents to own possums as long as they have a permit, according to World Population Review. There are  total of 23 states that allow pet possums with the correct permits.

In Wisconsin, Wyoming, Arkansas, and Connecticut you don't even need a permit. You can make one of these critters a member of your family whenever you'd like.

Iowa is one of the 24 states where it is illegal to own a possum. According to The Spruce Pets, "Unless you received a permit for the animal by 2007, you cannot posses, own, or breed any dangerous wild animals." Which is about as straightforward as it gets.

I'm not advocating for owning a possum but I'd be curious to know how this could be regulated. If you have a possum or a family of possums that regularly show up under your porch and you leave food/water for them, is that technically a pet, or are you just feeding an animal?

If you are caught owning or posessing a "dangerous wild animal" as a pet, you will be subject to a civil penalty of at least $200 per pet", according to Animal Law.

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