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  • USA Wildlife Removal Education Guide - About opossums

About opossums

Opossums are one of the strangest creatures in North America. They are the only marsupial on the continent, cousins to the kangaroo. Being a marsupial means, they raise their babies in a pouch located on their upper belly. The female opossum has a double uterus and the male has a forked penis so he can impregnate her twice at the same time. They are extremely adaptable, and have excellent survival instincts. People often mistake them for a rodent because of their grey scruffy fur, long snouts, and naked tale, but they are not. They can range in size from a large mouse to that of an average size cat.

Opossums are one of nature’s best exterminators. They eat huge amounts of bugs including ticks and mosquito larvae. They also eat small invertebrates and other mammals (like rodents), eggs, amphibians, and carrion. They are immune to the venom of most poisonous snakes, and are rarely susceptible to rabies, although they can carry the disease. They have bare feet with five toes on each, however, on their back foot the fifth digit is opposable allowing them to climb and hold on to things with an iron grip. At 12-14 days, the fertilized eggs inside the female hatch and transfer to her pouch, where they will live and nurse. Around 90 days of age they are weaned, and leave the pouch.

They will remain with their mother until it is safe for them to leave. Opossums age quickly and so have short life span, living only 2-4 years. They are solitary creatures, coming together with other opossums only to breed, and females will live with their young. There are rare occasions in the wild where opossums have burrowed together in groups during periods of extremely bad weather. They live a very nomadic life and spend all their time hunting the necessities. They like to live under abandoned structures, but will rarely fight to keep their home unless they have babies. If they choose to fight, they secrete an offensive odder that runs off many predators, and their teeth and claws are razor sharp. Most often they choose to “play dead” in hopes that the predator will decide they smell too bad to eat.

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