Virginia Opossum

Virginia Opossum

(Didelphis virginiana)

Conservation status:

Least Concern

Origin:

North and Central America

Lifespan:

2 to 3 years

Size:

Their size varies based upon location. The more tropical the climate the smaller they are in size.

Adults are 13-37 inches long, with a tail that is 8-19 inches long.

Adult males weigh 1.7 to 14 lbs and adult females weigh 11 oz to 8.2 lbs.

A large North American male can weigh 20 times more than a small female from the tropics.

Diet:

Omnivore

They eat fruits, vegetables, grains, insects, snails, carrion, snakes, birds, mice, etc.

Activity:

Nocturnal

Reproduction:

Breeding season starts as early as December and continues through October.

Most young are born between February and June.

A female may have 1 to 3 litters per year. Average litter size is 6 to 8.

Gestation is average 12 days. Babies are born as small as a dime.

The young find their way to the female’s pouch. There are 12 nipples in a circle with 1 in the center.

The young stay in the pouch for about 2 ½ months before climbing out on to the females back.

The young go off on their own around 4 or 5 months of age.

Extra Facts:

Opossums are the only marsupial found north of Mexico.

“Possum” refers to a group of marsupials native to Australia, Opossums are found in the Americas.

Opossums have hairless, prehensile tails.

Their brain size is 1/5 the size of a raccoons’.

They have 50 teeth more than any other North American land mammal.

They have opposable, clawless thumbs on their rear limbs.

They have the lowest encephalization quotients of any marsupials.

Opossums are very resistant to snake venom.

They feign death; “playing opossum”, which is when they pretend to play dead or injured.

Playing dead is triggered by extreme fear, it can last up to 6 hours. They lower their heartrate by half,

and their breathing rate slows by about 30%.

They do not hibernate but will stay denned up to stay warm.

They are very resistant to rabies.