Meet the Opossum!

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Opossums are one of the most unique and unusual of the marsupial group of animals. Not only do they have a prehensile tail, but they also sport a rat-like snout and sharp teeth. And while they may look like they could be a bit dangerous, opossums are relatively harmless and docile creatures.

What is an Opossum?

The opossum is a marsupial native to the Americas – first originating in South America, but eventually migrating North. The opossum is the largest marsupial in the Western Hemisphere of earth. The opossum is a solitary creature that is nocturnal (more active at night) and arboreal (lives predominantly in treetops)  It has a prehensile tail that it uses for balance, and it has opposable thumbs on its hind legs.

How Big Do Opossums Get?

On average, an adult opossum will measure between 12 to 15 inches in length (not including their tail.) They generally weigh between 4 to 12 pounds, with males being the heavier of the species averaging at 8 pounds.

What Does Opossum Eat?

Opossums are omnivorous and are known to generally eat fruit, grains and insects. They are also known to eat fish, birds and small mammals as well.

Did You Know?

  • The word “opossum” is borrowed from the Native American Powhatan language. It was  first recorded between 1607 and 1613 around the British settlement of Jamestown, Virginia,
  • The “Virginia Opossum” is the only opossum species found in the United States and Canada.
  • These marsupials are also expert tick-eaters! They can consume up to 5,000 ticks per season

How Long Do Opossums Live?

In captivity, opossums typically live between 4 and 6 years. However, in the wild, their lifespan is typically much shorter, with most opossums only living for 1-2 years.

Where Do Opossums Live?

These marsupials are known for their love of dark, secluded spaces. They are adept at living near humans because of easy access to food resources, like trash and garbage waste areas.

SeaQuest opossum

Are Opossums Dangerous?

Opossums are nocturnal creatures and are relatively shy around humans. However, they are not afraid to defend themselves if necessary. Opossums have been known to hiss, growl, and even bare their teeth when confronted by predators. Fortunately, they are not aggressive towards humans and usually only resort to these defensive measures if they feel threatened.

Do Opossums Make Good Pets?

No. Opossums are often considered a health risk to humans due to the nature of bacteria and diseases the species can carry. However, people have been known to keep short-tailed opossums as small domestic pets. They tend to stay cleaner and aren’t as skittish around humans as their larger counterparts.

Is the Opossum Endangered?

No. The opossum is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red list status as Least Concerned. However, the opossum is vulnerable to habitat loss due to deforestation and environmental threats. They are also known to be hunted.

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