North America’s only marsupial (mammals whose young develop in a pouch). They’re more closely related to kangaroos and koalas than to the other animals in the neighborhood!
4–14 pounds. Body is 15–20 inches long. They often suffer frostbite and lose part of their tails and ears.
Signs of their presence:
Sounds: growl, hiss, screech when threatened.
Evidence of their feeding: Eggs that have been chewed into many small pieces. (Raccoons usually remove one end of the shell without crushing it. Foxes carry eggs away. Weasels and mink crush the entire egg.) Opossums maul chickens beginning at the rear, while raccoons bite their heads off. Tracks: look like they were made by little human hands, fingers spread wide apart.
Scats: are semi-liquid and don’t last long. Left everywhere, even in the den. Opossum information that is kind of gross-When scared, possums may secrete a smelly, greenish fluid out of their rear end.
Opportunist. Opossums eat mostly meat (mainly insects or carrion) but they also eat many plants, especially fruits and grains. They may eat garbage, compost, pet food, birdseed, bird eggs, and young birds (turkeys, chickens, geese, and game birds). They also eat voles, shrews, worms, and toads.
Opossum Typical activity patterns:
Social style: Solitary.
Daily activity: Usually nocturnal.
Hibernator? No, but does den up for days at a time when the weather is bad.
Opossums can be found in rural, suburban, and urban areas such as parks. Meaning, opossums can live anywhere where food, water, and shelter are present.
Habitat: Wide-ranging—arid to moist, woodsy to open, but more common near streams and swamps. Dens in a different place three out of four nights (except in the cold of winter). They find shelter under buildings, in brush heaps, hollow logs or trees, old crow or squirrel nests, and rock crevices. Opossums may share quarters with woodchucks, skunks, and rabbits.
Territory and home range: not territorial. They have constantly shifting home ranges and may be considered nomadic. Home range is usually 10–50 acres.
Pair bonding style: Polygamous. Females raise the young alone.
Breeding dates: February–June. Most females, though, have just 1–2 litters per year. The young are born about 13 days after breeding.
Litter size: 6–16, average 8.
Life in a pouch: The tiny (about 1/2″ long) young are born blind and helpless. They must crawl into the mother’s pouch and attach to a nipple. They’ll remain in the pouch for 7–8 weeks, firmly attached to that nipple. Then, for about two weeks, they’ll begin to explore the world, often riding on the mother’s back. They’ll return to her pouch to nurse. They’re weaned at about 3 months old and are generally fully independent by the time they’re seven inches long.
Amount of time young remains with parents beyond weaning date: 3–4 weeks.
Opossum Common nuisance situations:
Opossums can be a nuisance throughout the year in various manners.
Situations in which opossums are causing a nuisance to include:
Raiding gardens, chicken coops, bird feeders, pet food, and garbage.
Denning in the garage or attic and creating a mess.
Causing horses to become lame through a parasite in their fecal matter
A parasite found in the feces of opossums can contaminate water and food sources for horses (both hay and feed).
This parasite can transmit a disease to horses, called “equine protozoal myelitis.” This disease affects the nervous system and can cause the animal to become lame.
Being a vector for diseases harmful to humans and pets.
These diseases include mange and rabies.
Not all opossums have rabies
A hissing or drooling opossum is not necessarily rabid. When threatened, a healthy opossum may bare its teeth, make a lot of noise, drool, bite, or leak a nasty fluid out of its rear. Stress may cause them to play dead, which might confuse predators and keep them from being eaten.