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Opossums live only 1-2 years in the wild, 2-3 years in captivity. They tend to have a rough childhood, between oncoming cars and dogs who don’t like them in their back yards. Many become orphans, or are assumed to be forgotten by mama, as they are only about 4 inches long from the base of their tail to the tips of their noses when they are sent off to “opossum college”. Animal Tracks has had many opossums throughout the years. There has to be a health reason for a native animal to find its way to us – and so many of our opossums come to us in an imperfect state. You may not know, but opossums are the only North American marsupial, and the females have a pouch just like a kangaroo. Humans live better when there are opossums in our neighborhoods. They will eat approximately 30,000 ticks in their lifetime. Deer ticks are the number one carrier of Lyme disease. So if opossums don’t exist where you are, Lyme disease rates will jump drastically, and a healthy population of opossums will help out tremendously. Most people think they look like a rat, and despise their bald tails – but that tail is actually prehensiled, and works like a fifth hand – they are nature’s sanitation engineers! This little animal gets a really bad rap, when in reality it should be celebrated. They are considerate enough to come out at night when we are sleeping and clean up the environment and then tuck themselves in to a tree hollow and sleep the day away. You could go through your entire life without ever seeing an opossum in your neighborhood.


ORDER: Didelphimorphia   
FAMILY: Didelphidae         
GENUS: Didelphis           
SPECIES: Virginiana

The opossums are nighttime scavengers, which makes them very important to their habitats. By eating carrion, the risk of disease spreading in the area is lowered. They are important seed dispersers. Opossums might look like a small little forest animal, but they have the greatest number of teeth of any land mammal, 50 very sharp teeth! They have pouches to carry their young, opposable thumbs on their hind legs, and a prehensile tail that can work as a fifth hand if necessary. They have the ability to play dead when startled or frightened (they're not pretending, they actually go into a catatonic state). They curl up with their mouths open, tongues out, breathing slows for several minutes to several hours. They will tolerate being poked or prodded or even bitten without reacting. They developed this trait to help escape predation, as most predators do not eat carrion. Breeding takes place from December to August, and the gestation period is only 12-13 days long. The female can have up to 25 joeys, but only 13 will survive. They are born the size of a honeybee, climb into mama’s pouch and latch onto a milk source – its first come first serve, as mama only has 13 nipples. They will remain in the pouch for 2 ½ to 3 months and then hang on mama’s back for the remainder of the time that they are together. Mama dumps them off between 4 & 5months and reproductive maturity is reached by 6 months old.


Cars, dogs and hunting.

Conservation Status

LC - Least Concern

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