Critter Corner - Opossum
(Didelphis virginiana)

DID YOU KNOW:

The opossum is the only marsupial (animal with a pouch) in North America?

EATING HABITS:

Sometimes Opossums will seek out food around your home, so keep trash in metal containers and do not leave cat and dog food bowls out at night.

THE YOUNG:

After birth, the young must climb through their mother's fur into a pouch on her abdomen.  When the babies are 80 days old, they begin spending time outside of the pouch, riding on Mom's back.  If you see a young opossum whose eyes are open walking around, don't assume it is abandoned.  Mom may still be nearby, or it may be ready to live on its own.

HABITAT (HOME):

Opossums are active year round and live in brush piles, hollow trees or perhaps even under your porch.

 

DEFENSIVE HABITS:

You may see opossums in your neighborhood at night scavenging for food.  If you startle one, it may feign death, may quickly retreat up a tree or it may use its fifty sharp teeth as a defense.

UNUSUAL FACTS:

  • Opossums tails are not strong enough to hang from branches, but they do use them to gather leaves and to help hold on as they climb trees.

  • Opossums have thumbs on their hind feet

  • Fossils of opossums have been found that are 70 million years ago.  This means that opossums shared the earth with dinosaurs.

  • These marsupials eat bugs, slugs, snails and cockroaches.  They are Nature's Clean-up Crew.

 To learn more about opossums

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(Photo Credits: Close-up of opossum, Sharon Goff; Opossum on log, Bob Gress, Illinois Dept of Natural Resources; Opossum carrying nesting material, Missouri Department of Conservation)