Opossums…Not That Bad After All!

Lots of people feel that Opossums are aggressive because of their large mouths and 50 sharp teeth! In fact, opossums are solitary, gentle and placid creatures. Adults are usually quite slow moving and will just open their mouth to show their teeth and hiss when fearful. They do not initiate aggression. They will retreat whenever possible.

Opossums are actually very beneficial to our areas. They’re omnivores, so they eat both meat and vegetation. They are basically scavengers, cleaning up the rotten fruit and debris in our yards, in addition to carrion roadkill, etc. They will eat insects, snails, slugs, worms, berries, nuts, grass, leaves and pet food. They are quite adaptable and make due with whatever food and water is available. Pretty much every lawn has opossums walking around at night. Trust me, they are not a threat to you or your pets.

The tail can be 9″ to 21″ long. They use their thick, prehensile tail to scale and sometimes to carry leaves, etc.. Opossums can live in trees and the adults can hang by their tails while they sleep. Opossums will make a den in any dark, quiet place. They don’t put much effort into making a house.

Opossums are North America’s only marsupial mammal (female which has a pouch for carrying her young). They are also nocturnal (sleep during the day and active at night).

The opossum’s mating season is from February to June. They become adults and begin mating at 1 year old. They can have 1 – 2 litters per season, depending on the climate. The gestation (time from conception to birth) is just 12 – 14 days. The mother has 13 teats and that’s the maximum number of babies she can nurse. Usually, 13 babies will not make it in the pouch and of the ones that do, only about 3 to 6 will make it to weaning age. The infants are born undeveloped embryos. They are just about 1/4″ long and about the size of a Honey Bee. As soon as they are born, they scoot to the mother’s pouch where they latch onto a teat. Once the babies latch on, the teat swells and elongates and they remain there constantly. At 1 to 2 months old they will move out of the pouch and cling to the moms fur on her back while she travels around.

The infants are weaned at 2-3 months old and are considered juveniles. At this time they are 6″ to 7″ long. They become independent of the mother when they are 6 – 12 months old and approximately 7″ to 10″ long. They become mating adults when they’re 1 year old. The adult males are bigger than the females.

When opossums are really frightened, they can go into an involuntary “shock – like” or “fainting state.” They first awaken by wiggling their ears.

When they are unconscious, they usually have an open mouth and appear to be dead.

Opossums just live 2 – 4 years. They’ve a lot of predators! Between individuals, cars, cats, dogs, owls and bigger wildlife, opossums do not survive very long.

So, the next time you see one roaming around at night, try to look the other way.
They really aren’t as bad as they seem.

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