Opossum or Oppossum (Didelphidae)


Opossum is a marsupial in the order Didelphimorphia. They also occur in the Americas. It has more than 120 species in 19 genera. It is the largest order of marsupials in the Western Hemisphere. Opossums came from South America and moved to North America during the Great American Interchange when North and South America were together.

Opossum Description

There is only one marsupial in the United States, and it lives in Virginia. Marsupials are mammals carrying their young in a pouch. Even though “possum” is a common slang word, it is wrong to use it to describe the Virginia opossum. Possums are a different group of marsupials that live in Australia and New Zealand.

The opossum can climb quickly and swim well. Adults weigh between 4 and 11 pounds and are about 2 to 3 feet long, with a long, hairless tail. It walks along tree branches with the help of its tail, which can grab onto things. The back feet have a big toe that they can turn in and out like a human thumb.

Opossums are mostly white, with a pink nose, large black hairless ears with pink tips, and short dark legs. They can show off their 50 teeth, which is more than any other land animal on this continent. The brain-to-body weight ratio of an opossum is the lowest of any North American mammal. However, they are a very adaptable species that has been able to do well in North America.

Life History

Opossum mostly lives alone, only getting together to mate or have babies. From January to July, opossums have their young. After about 2 weeks, they have anywhere from 1 to 13 babies. Kits are born blind, hairless, and with back legs that aren’t fully formed.

The babies crawl into their mother’s pouch as soon as they are born and stay there for 8 weeks. The young will then ride on their mother’s back for 4 weeks. At 12 weeks, they will be able to do everything on their own. At 8–12 months, opossums become sexually mature and usually have one litter per year.


Opossum Behavior


Opossums usually live alone and move around, staying in one place as long as there is food and water nearby. Some families live together in burrows that are already made or even under houses. Even though they will stay in abandoned burrows for a while, they don’t dig or do much work to make their own. Since they are nocturnal, they like dark, safe places. These places may be above or below ground.

When they are scared or hurt, they “play possum,” which means that they try to look and smell like a sick or dead animal. This physical reaction is not something you can control, like when you pass out. However, baby opossums’ brains don’t always react this way at the right time, so they often don’t “play dead” when they feel threatened.

When an opossum is “playing possum,” its lips are pulled back, its teeth are exposed, saliva foams around the mouth, its eyes close or half-close, and its anal glands release a foul-smelling fluid. The stiff, curled shape doesn’t move when poked, turned, or even carried away. The animal will usually wake up after a few minutes to four hours. This happens when the animal’s ears start to twitch slightly.

What Do Opposums Eat

So, what do opposum eat? You can find opossums in open woods and farmlands near water, as well as in the suburbs and cities. They sleep most of the time but can be seen when food is scarce during the day. Opossums are nomadic, so they don’t usually live in the same place for more than one night. They live in old burrows, holes in trees, hollow logs, and piles of brush.

They are active all year long & don’t sleep during the winter. Since Massachusetts is near the northern limit of the opossum’s range, the cold weather here can be hard for them to handle. Because of this, opossums often seek shelter from the cold in homes, sheds, garages, and other buildings. It is also not unusual to see signs of frostbite on an opossum’s nose, ears, and tail, which don’t have fur.

Eggs, grains, nuts, fruit, birds, snakes, frogs, mice, and dead animals are what they eat most (dead animals). Opossums will also eat things that people leave out, like trash, pet food, bird seed, corn, and chicken. Because they eat a lot of animals that have been killed by cars, they are often killed by cars themselves.

Opossums are also eaten by owls, hawks, bobcats, coyotes, and dogs that are not being watched. When opossums feel threatened, they growl, hiss, bare their teeth, or climb a nearby tree to escape. If they can’t get away, they will act like they are dead for a few minutes to a few hours until they think the danger is over.


As a marsupial, the female oppossum has a vagina that splits in two, a uterus that splits in two, and a pouch called a marsupium. The opossum’s average time between periods is about 28 days.

Opossums do have a placenta, but it is short-lived, has a simple structure, and is not fully functional, unlike that of placental mammals. So, the babies are born very early, even though the gestation period is only 12 to 14 days, which is the same as many other small marsupials. They can have up to 20 babies at a time.

FAQs: Opossum


What Is The Difference Between A Possum And An Opossum?

The Virginia opossum has another name as a possum or an opossum. Possum is the more common name. However, opossum is the more accurate one to use in a more technical or scientific setting. You can use either voice the first syllable of “opossum” or leave it silent.

Do Opossums Bite?

Do Opossums Bite? Opossums, like any other frightened animal, may bite to defend themselves. Opussum has a variety of defensive mechanisms at its disposal, from playing dead to hissing, should they ever feel surrounded or endangered. Although incidents of biting among wild animals are uncommon, it is best to avoid any contact with them.

Are Opossums Aggressive?

Opossums are not hostile; their hissing with their mouths wide open is a show. When that doesn’t work, they simply pretend to be dead. Don’t freak out upon seeing an opossum in your backyard. These animals pose little danger and will likely leave soon.

Are Possums Friendly To Humans?

Because they lack aggression, opossums usually flee when disturbed. If you don’t do anything to make them angry, they won’t bother you. But if you provoke them, they’ll open their big mouths wide and flash all their teeth.

Do Opposums Carry Rabies

So, can opposums get rabies, or do opposums have rabies? Opossums and squirrels are two examples of animals that people might worry could be infected with rabies despite the low prevalence with which those species carry the virus. However, rabies in these species is extremely uncommon. Bats are often tinier than the top of a pencil eraser, making it difficult for humans to notice a scratch or bite from one. Rabies, however, can still be transmitted through these methods.

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