Virginia Opossum

Didelphis virginiana

Origin: North and Central America

Lifespan: In the wild the live two to three years. In captivity they can live up to 4 years.

Size: Their size varies based on 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 in long.

Males weigh 1-14 lbs., and females weigh 11 oz. to 8.2 lbs.

Diet: Omnivorous

  • They eat fruits, vegetation, grains, insects, snails, carrion, snakes, birds, and mice, etc.

Activity: Nocturnal

Reproduction:

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

  • Males attract females by clicking sound with their mouth.

  • Most young are born between February and June.

  • A female may have one to three litters per year.

  • Gestation is average twelve days, babies are born as small as dimes.

  • Average litter size is six to eight, at times there can be as many as 20 joeys born.

  • Newborns are the size of a honey bee and are underdeveloped. 

  • The young find their way to the female's pouch there are twelve nipples arranged in a circle and with one nipple in the center.

  • They stay in the pouch for about 2 1/2 months before climbing out onto the females back.

  • The young go off on their own around four or five months of age.

  • Opossums have a relatively high mortality rate, only 1 in 10 offspring survive into adulthood.

Extra Facts:

  • Opossums are the only marsupial found north of Mexico.

  • Opossums have hairless semi-prehensile tails

  • They have opposable thumbs on their hind feet.

  • Their mouth contains 50 teeth, more than any North American land animal

  • Opossums have a high tolerance for snake venom and often predate on them

  • They are very resistant to rabies.

  • The opossum brain is 1/5 the size of a raccoon's brain. They have one of the lowest encephalization quotients (brain size) of any mammals.

  • Though opossums have extremely poor eye sight, they do have a great sense of smell.

  • Females are call "Jills", males are called "Jacks", and the offspring are called "Joeys".

  • Opossums are rarely ever violent, but they do put on a fierce displace. They will his, snarl, and open gape in hopes to scare off any threat.

  • Playing dead is triggered by extreme fear, it can last up to six hours and lower their heart rate by half and breathing slows by about 30%.

  • Opossums are nomadic by nature. They will sometimes travel up to  a 15 mile radius over a two week period. 

 

 

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