Recently a friend asked if I had a trap that could humanely capture a critter for relocation. From the digging in their neighbor’s yard, it most likely was an armadillo or an opossum.

Many people may view such critters as pests and either call an exterminator who will, for a fee, get rid of them for you, or you might choose to trap them yourself.

It is hoped that you will choose a non-lethal trap, and then you will need to figure out what to do with the critter once caught.

On the other hand, having an armadillo or an opossum in your yard can be a good thing. Before you decide to call a pest control exterminator or try to trap an opossum or armadillo on your own, consider that there are benefits to having them around.

First, let’s take a look at the opossum. The opossum is the only marsupial in North America, and it is native to the Lowcountry. We often see them in our yards and gardens, sometimes with babies trailing their mom.

Opossums will eat pests like cockroaches (palmetto bugs), rats, and mice. They will also eat ticks that can carry lime disease.

Opossums are resistant to snake venom. Because snakes are also a part of their diet, they keep in control the population of venomous snakes. So for those who have a fear of snakes, the opossum is a good friend.

And, opossums have an extremely low risk of contracting rabies. Rather than causing damage to one’s garden, more often than not, the opossum benefits a garden by eating snails, slugs, and fallen, overripe fruit.

The armadillo is another critter that can be seen in backyards in the Lowcountry. Armadillos are not native to South Carolina but seem to thrive here. They are sometimes described as a “possum on a half shell” or as “a platypus in a conquistador helmet.”

Armadillos have been known to eat underground colonies of yellow jackets. Also, they can use their long, sticky tongues to lap up fire ants without being harmed.

There is no record of humans getting rabies from armadillos. They might carry leprosy; however, transmission to humans has occurred only by the rare transmission that came from eating undercooked armadillo meat. If you don’t eat armadillos, you should be quite safe.

While opossums and armadillos may occasionally be a pain in the neck and dig some holes in your yard, overall, they are more beneficial than a nuisance, a label they too often receive.

John Riolo lives in Moss Creek and is past president of the Nature Club of Moss Creek. john.a.riolo@gmail.com