The Virginia opossum is about the size of a large house cat. They have furless, black ears and a long, naked, prehensile tail. Their hair is whitish-gray on top with a white face and short legs, females have a pouch.
Habitat & Diet
They live in thick forests, open woods, brushy wastelands, marshes, farms and urban areas. At home in trees; uses its prehensile tail to help stabilize position when climbing— it does not, however, hang from its tail. They eat a wide variety of foods including: slugs, snails, tadpoles, mussels, lizards, earthworms, frogs, young birds, bird eggs, small mammals, crayfish, insects, fruits, berries and carrion. Opossums are one of the shortest lived mammals for its size, their lifespan is typically 2 to 4 years. Predators are humans (and cars), dogs, cats, owls, and larger wildlife.
Opossums are nocturnal and solitary. Breeding season starts in late winter, and females will have two or three litters each year. Opossums are born after an 11-13 day gestation period. The pink, embryonic-looking infants are so small at birth that 20 could fit into a teaspoon. The infants continue to develop inside the pouch. As they grow and the pouch becomes full, the juveniles then ride on the mother’s back until they are old enough to go out on their own.
Many opossums will “play ‘possum” when extremely frightened. They will appear dead. If found, leave the area, put dogs in the house and give the opossum a chance to recover. It may take anywhere from a few minutes up to 4 hours. Generally, the ears will start to wiggle when the opossum is about to revive. Please do not immediately place the opossum in a plastic bag or garbage can. If after 4 hours there is no movement or signs of life then contact animal control for disposal.
Meet our Residents
- The Virginia Opossum is North America’s most primitive animal and only marsupial.
- They have 50 teeth – that’s more than any other land mammal!
- They will hiss or growl and show their 50 teeth when frightened; but, in reality, they are gentle and placid and prefer to avoid all confrontations and wish to be left alone.
- Playing dead - The opossum falls into an involuntary comatose-like state induced by extreme fear. While in this state, the opossum will also emit a foul, rotten smell to deter other animals from eating them. They can be in this state anywhere from several minutes and up to 4 hours.
- Opossums are more resistant to rabies than any other mammal; cattle, goats, dogs, cats, sheep, and the ice cream man are far more susceptible to rabies!