The opossum, often called possum, is the only marsupial found north of Mexico. Marsupials are distinguished by their unique mode of reproduction; the young are born in an almost embryonic form and make their way to the pouch in their mother’s abdomen, where they are nourished for what in other mammals would be most of the gestational period.
Although it looks like a big rat, the opossum is related to the kangaroo and koala. It has long guard hairs that give their fur a coarse appearance. Their coat color varies from very light to almost black, but usually looks gray. They have naked ears and a long, almost hairless, prehensile tail, which is capable of grasping and holding objects. While the tail might support the opossum’s full weight for brief periods, the animal usually uses at least one foot as well as the tail when dangling from a limb.
Opossums are omnivorous and will consume just about everything that’s edible including dead animals. They rarely raid garbage cans, chicken coops or gardens. They are most active at night, and they have a habit of ceaselessly moving along the ground in search of food. They are known as “Nature’s Little Sanitation Engineers”. Adult males may wander continuously, females spend their lives in more defined areas, but still move around almost randomly. Opossums seen in yards are likely to move on without human encouragement if given enough time.
Opossums may breed twice a year and give birth to as many as 12 young. They are so small that 10 can fit in a teaspoon. Young emerge from their mother’s pouch at about 1-2 months, then ride on their mother’s back. They become independent at about 3 months. Excellent climbers, opossums may take shelter by day in tree dens, old squirrel nests, or nests they’ve built themselves above ground. They can also make home under decks or patios and in wood and brush piles.
Opossums are exceptionally non-aggressive and non-destructive. When confronted, they will sometimes display their 50 sharp pointed teeth and may even hiss. Rather than fight, they will sometimes slip into a state of apparent death-hence the term “playing possum”. This state of catatonia can last a minute or two, or even as long as 2 hours, before the “dead” possum revives and moves on.
Opossums lived during the time of the dinosaurs and one reason for their continued survival is their ability to eat nearly everything. Although slow moving, they are by no means stupid. Results from some learning and discrimination tests rand opossums above dogs and on a par with pigs in intelligence.
The opossum is about the size of a large house cat. It has a triangular head and a long pointed nose. It has grayish fur everywhere but on its ears, feet and tail. Its tail is prehensile. A prehensile tail is adapted for grasping and wrapping around things like tree limbs. The opossum can hang from its tail for a short time. Some people think opossums hang from their tails and sleep. They don't. Their tails aren't strong enough to hold them for that long!
The opossum has opposable hallux. A hallux is like a thumb. The opossum's " thumbs" are on its rear feet. The hallux helps it grasp branches when it climbs.
An Virginia opossum female may have as many as 25 babies, but she usually will have between seven to eight. The reason opossums have so many babies to insure that some of them survive. Like most marsupials, opossums are very small when they are born - about the size of a navy bean.
The babies climb up the mother's fur and into her pouch where they find a teat. Some babies will not find their way to the pouch and will die. If they make it to the pouch, only babies who find one of the thirteen teats will survive. They will stay in the pouch and suckle for 55-60 days. Then they will move out of the pouch and spend another four to six weeks on their mother's back. In some parts of their range, females will have three litters a year.
The name 'opossum' was first used in western culture by Captain John Smith in
1608. It comes from the Algonquin name 'apasum', which means
The Virginia opossum is nocturnal and uses its keen
sense of smell to locate food. It is
omnivorous and eats just
about anything, including lots of different plants and animals like fruits,
insects, and other small animals. Sometimes, it eats garbage and carrion.
Carrion is dead animals. Because so much carrion is roadkill, opossums are often
killed by cars while looking for food on roadways.
Marsupials are mammals that carry their young in a pouch. Other marsupials include kangaroos, koalas and sugar gliders. Marsupial females typically have an external pouch in which the immature young are raised after birth until early infancy. The newborn typically crawl to this pouch after birth, and attach themselves to milk-secreting teats (nipples), and are nursed until they can survive outside the pouch. Marsupial babies are born after only thirteen days of gestation (gestation is the time lapsing between when the sperm unites with the egg, and the creature is born). At birth, newborn opossums are so tiny that an entire litter, consisting of up to 14 babies, can fit into a single teaspoon.
Marsupials are animals, like kangaroos, that have pouches in which to carry their young. Baby opossums are born in groups of about twelve.
Population numbers fluctuate in response to the severity of winters. They are especially abundant in urban settings. Populations can exceed 200 opossums per square mile in favorable habitats. On a seasonal basis, numbers are lowest in late winter.
Trapping and relocating wildlife is seldom biologically sound. Areas that appear suitable as release sites probably are not. Trapping and removing opossums is illegal without the proper permits and is not always the solution to the problem. Removing the animal creates an open space for another animal. Traps are available at some Rent-All shops or can be purchased from many hardware or Co-op stores. Use extreme caution when handling any wildlife and wear appropriate protective clothing such as leather gloves and boots.
Trapping is much more effective without the harsh environmental impact.
Virginia opossums are marsupials. They have a pouch to carry their young. Virginia Opossums are medium-sized mammals , about the size of a large housecat. They have whitish-gray fur, but sometimes can be blackish-gray. Virginiana refers to the state of Virginia where the opossum was first observed by early English colonists. However, opossums today can be found throughout most of the United States and portions of Canada and Mexico.
Virginia opossums begin mating in December in the southern states, in March in the northernmost states and Canada, and in January and February for areas between. In Canada and in the north and central states, females usually bear only one litter per year. Virginia Opossum tracks generally show five finger-like toes in both the fore and hind prints. The hind tracks are unusual and distinctive due to the opossum's opposable thumb , which generally prints at an angle of 90 degrees or greater to the other fingers (sometimes near 180 degrees).
Possum have the lowest rabies rate of any animal in the wild. Snyder (VB Animal Control), please check your facts before providing info to the public. Possum Pete hangs out in our back yard. I like to watch it, but I would never think of touching it! Possums and feral cats are all God’s creatures. If you are gonna feed those damn cats, it is only fair that you have to feed these opossums.
Possum entered there via fluepipe in the chimney. I opened the glass heater door so it could walk out of the open house doors but it stubbornly would not leave the woodheater for half an hour.