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  • USA Wildlife Removal Education Guide - Why do Opossums play dead?

Why do Opossums play dead?

Opossums play dead for a number of reasons, just the way they use their tails to trick their predators and support their bodies while climbing on trees. Opossums are the single Marsupial mammals found in Northern part of America, the animals don’t usually grow bigger than fifteen pounds in body weight, and aside from playing dead; they can also perform some tricks such as killing head-down by their tails. The oddest thing you can find these animals do is to play dead, especially when they are faced with some unwanted situations.

Opossums are considered peaceful animals, and most times they move little by little on the ground and try as much as possible to keep away from confronting other animals or humans. Opossums are susceptible to predators, plus such include, coyotes, dogs and foxes. When an Opossum is finally cornered, it will start hissing, growling, and may bite when provoked beyond what it can bear. Opossums are constant victims of fast-speeding cars. When Opossums eventually meet a deadly predator, they “faint” or “freeze” at the prospect of confronting such a predator, and most people will consider it “playing dead”.

Opossums can play dead for between few seconds and several minutes, depending on the types of predator or danger they are confronted with. In most cases, the predator will play around with the Opossum’s body for a while and leave it. Playing dead is regarded as an instinctive response from an Opossum, as the prospect of facing danger can send the animal into a temporary shock. The shock experience by the animal will induce the animal to go into a comatose that may last for between 40 minutes or more than 3 hours.

While an Opossum is playing dead, its body remains in a limp state, while the front teeth will suddenly turn to balls and at the same time drools run from its mouth. It may sometimes appear that post-death decay has started already in the animal. The state of play dead by an Opossum may sometimes go as far as releasing some decay odour, as the animal release some foul smell from its anal region – this will eventually fool the predator into believing that the carcass of the animal is already decaying.

The risk of playing dead, may save the life of an Opossum temporarily however, there are many risks associated with this act. For instance, the animal may be buried thinking that it is already dead, or it may be run over by a fast-speeding car.

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