The Interesting Opossum

While Working at a large Animal Shelter, I’d contact with thousands of opossums! Most had been hit by cars, attacked and injured by dogs or caught in traps by taxpayers and picked up from our Animal Control Officers. Thank goodness, a couple of years back the County ceased accepting trapped wildlife so, people had to learn how to live peacefully with Opossums.

Possum, Opossum, Marsupial, AnimalA Lot of People Believe that Opossums are competitive because of Snake PoopActually, Opossums are solitary, tender and placid creatures. Adults are normally quite slow moving and will only open their mouth to show their teeth and hiss when frightened. They do not initiate aggression. They’ll escape whenever possible.

Opossums are actually very beneficial to our neighborhoods. They are omnivores, so they eat both meat and vegetation. They are essentially scavengers, cleaning up the rotten fruit and debris from our yards, as well as carrion (dead road kill, etc.) They will eat insects, snails, slugs, worms, berries, nuts, grass, leaves and puppy foods. They’re very adaptable and make due with whatever water and food can be found. Just about every single lawn has Opossums walking around at night. Trust me, they are not a threat for you or your pets.

Adult Opossums are about the size of a adult cat. Their body is @ 13″ to 20″ long. They use their thick, prehensile tail to climb and occasionally to carry leaves, etc.. Opossums can live in trees however, the adults can’t hang by their tails while they sleep. Opossums will make a den at any dark, quiet location. They don’t put much effort into making a house.

Opossums are North America’s only Marsupial mammal (feminine which has a pouch for carrying her young). They’re also nocturnal (sleep during the day and active at night).

The Opossum’s breeding season is from February to June. They eventually become adults and start mating at @ 1 year-old. They are able to have 1 – two litters a year, depending upon the climate. The gestation (period from conception to birth) is just 12 – 14 days. The mother has 13 teats and that is the maximum number of babies she can nurse. Usually, 13 babies won’t make it into the pouch and of those that do, only around 3 to 6 will make it to weaning age. The infants are born undeveloped embryos. They are only about 1/4″ long and about the size of a Honey Bee. As soon as they are born, they scoot into the mothers pouch where they latch on a teat. After the babies move on, the teat swells and elongates and they stay there constantly.

The Babies are weaned at 2-3 months old and are considered juveniles. They become independent of the mother when they’re 6 – 12 months old and approximately 7″ to 10″ long. They become mating adults when they’re @ 1 year old. The adult males are larger than the females.
Probably much different than you believed. When Opossums are extremely frightened, they can go into an involuntary “shock – like” or “fainting state.” They first wake up by wiggling their ears.

When they’re unconscious, they normally have a open mouth and also appear to be lifeless.

Opossums Only live 2 – 4 years. They’ve a lot of predators! Between individuals, cars, dogs, cats, owls and larger wildlife, Opossums don’t survive very long.

So, the next time you see one roaming around at night, try to look the other way.
They really aren’t as bad as they seem.

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