Found Baby Opossums
Opossums are North America’s only marsupial – they carry their babies in a pouch on their belly, just like a kangaroo. They have 52 teeth, 13 nipples, an opposable thumb, and prehensile tail that is capable of grasping.
These slow, non-aggressive animals have poor eyesight and are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night. An adult opossum has an average life span of approximately two years. They are omnivores and eat both plants and animals. Their diet includes slugs, insects (including ticks), worms, fish, small rodents, eggs, wild berries, nuts, and rotting fruit. About 75% of the diet of urban and suburban adult opossum is carrion (dead animals).
Female gives birth to the first litter of the season in late January through March, with a second litter in late June through August. The young are born about 13 days from conception in an embryonic form and crawl directly into the mother’s pouch. They find and attach to a nipple and do not come off the nipple for the next two to three months. By that time, their eyes are open, and they are fully furred. The young opossum will travel outside the pouch onto the mother’s back, clinging to her fur, going back into the pouch to nurse. They do this until they reach independence at about five months.
Because of how opossums are raised, it is not possible to reunite a pouch young or one that is not independent with it’s mother. The following is shared with permission from Operations Wildlife:
Baby Opossums – To Rescue or Not to Rescue
- Babies on Dead Mother
Most baby opossum are found when someone stops to check an adult opossum lying on the street or highway. They may see a baby crawling on the female opossum’s belly or see something moving in her pouch. Any young opossum found with a dead mother or in a dead mother’s pouch needs to contact Lakeside Nature Center as soon as possible.
Important: Do NOT attempt to take the babies off the mother’s nipple!
The nipples extend all the way into the baby’s belly and often must be surgically removed. If forcibly removed, the nipple could completely detach, and the baby could swallow it.
It may seem difficult or distasteful, but when bringing to a rehab faciility, it is critical to transport the babies (injured or not) still attached to the dead mother’s body. Lay her in the trunk on a towel or trash bag in a box with the lid on or box closed. We will remove the babies from her nipples and check for injuries.
- Baby Alone in Yard
If you see a baby opossum alone in the yard and it is less than nine inches long from nose to the end of its butt (not including the tail), it is probably an orphan or has been left behind.
Sometime during the third month, as the babies get bigger, they ride along on Mom’s back and sides, hanging on to her fur as she walks around. Occasionally one of the babies will fall off unnoticed by mom. It is not old enough to fend for itself at this age and can be preyed on, may be unable to find enough food, or may become dehydrated. These babies will need rehabilitation before they are ready to go off on their own.
- Older Baby in Yard
A young opossum about nine inches long (not including the tail) has reached the independent stage and should be left alone unless it is showing signs of injury or illness.
Found a opossum?
If you find an injured opossum, feel free to contact the center by phone at (816) 513-8960