Opossums

Opossum

The name "opossum" is derived from an Algonquian Indian word "apasum", meaning white animal.

While there are over 65 species of opossums, only one, the Didelphis Virginiana, more commonly known as the Virginia opossum, is native to North America. Didelphis means double womb and refers to the pouch as a secondary place of development for the infant opossums. Virginiana refers to the state of Virginia where the opossum was first observed by early English colonists. However, opossums today can be found throughout most of the United States and portions of Canada and Mexico.

Whether rural, residential or in the wilderness, opossums are a benefit to any area they inhabit. Their diet includes all types of bugs and insects including cockroaches, crickets and beetles. They love snails. They also eat mice and rats. The nocturnal opossum is attracted to our neighborhoods by the availability of water, pet food left out at night and overripe, rotting fruit that has fallen from trees. The opossum in turn helps keep our neighborhoods clean and free of unwanted, harmful garden pests and rodents, which may carry diseases. The opossum has earned the title of "Nature's Little Sanitation Engineer."

Opossum Facts:

  • North America's only marsupial (female has a pouch) mammal. The female carries and nurses her young in her marsupium until they are about 2 to 3 months old; then they are carried on her back another 1 to 2 months on her back whenever they are away from the den.
  • Opossums are the size of a large cat; grey to black fur; black eyes; pink nose, feet and tail; black ears; and pointed nose.
  • They are solitary and nocturnal: usually slow moving; when frightened and unable to flee may fall into an involuntary shock-like state, "playing 'possum".
  • Opossums will hiss or growl and show their 50 sharp teeth when frightened; but, in reality, they are gentle and placid they prefer to avoid all confrontations and wish to be left alone.
  • Opossums are omnivorous, they eats insects, snails, rodents, berries, over-ripe fruit, grasses, leaves, and carrion; occasionally will eat snakes, ground eggs, corn or other vegetables.
  • Opossums are able to live wherever water, food, and shelter exist. At home in trees; uses its prehensile tail to help stabilize position when climbing it does not, however, hang by its tail.
  • Few Opossums live beyond the age of 1 year in the wild, but they can live up to 10 years in captivity. Killed by many predators: humans (and cars), dogs, cats, owls, and larger wildlife.

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West Lafayette, IN 47906

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