Opossums, Didelphis virginiana, are North America’s only marsupial.

Mother opossums have 2 litters each year and like other marsupials, nurse their babies in their pouches where they keep them safe and warm. Baby opossums, called joeys, are about the size of an acorn when they are born and immediately crawl into their mother’s pouch. They will stay there for almost 3 months before they take a ride on their mother’s back. At a little over 3 months, the joeys are weaned and set off to live on their own.

Opossums love trees. Their long prehensile tails, thumbs on all 4 paws, and sharp claws make them skilled climbers. You may find them resting on a branch or nesting in a tree hole.

When encountering a human, an Opossum may hiss, growl, and show all 50 of his/her teeth in an effort to tell you to leave. The 50 teeth are used to chew the different types of food in an opossum’s diet. Opossums are not picky eaters and will eat fresh fruit, grass, nuts, carrion, worms, birds, mice, insects, and snakes. They are immune to bee stings and snake bites. You will often find them enjoying a free human meal in unsecured garbage cans and open dumpsters.

Opossums play “possum.” When threatened, they will roll on their sides and play dead. Their eyes may be open or closed, they may urinate, let their tongue hang out, foam at the mouth, and secrete a foul scent from their anal glands. They will remain this way until the threat has passed.

Fun Fact: Each opossum can eat up to 5000 ticks each season.

Photo Credit: Dan Kon.
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