Home » Mammals » Opossum


Scientific name: Didelphis virginiana

The opossum is the only marsupial native to North America. What makes a mammal a marsupial? It gives birth to young that are born in an undeveloped state and must live in the mother’s pouch to complete their development. Baby opossums are known as joeys. Other features to these very unique creatures are that the female has two vaginas and the male’s penis has two heads!

This is a very beneficial animal to have on your property. One opossum can kill and eat some 5,000 ticks in a season.

These animals are nocturnal. They are also slow-moving and tend to search along roads for food. Sadly, we most often see them after they have been hit by cars.

At first glance, the opossum  has a rat-like appearance with a pointy snout and a long rope like tail. With enough exposure to them, they achieve the “so ugly that they are cute” status.


2- 14 pounds


14-36 inches

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Opossums are Expanding Their Range Northward

The opossum is a species of the southern United States and like many other animals (the cardinal, titmouse, Carolina wren and turkey vulture) is expanding its range northward, presumably in response to warmer temperatures due to climate change.


They eat a variety of foods (omnivores) including rodents, insects, berries, nuts, fruis, pet food, bird seed and more.


They are quite adaptable and can be found near rivers, streams and swamps.

Life Cycle

The life-cycle and breeding facts of the opossum are different from any of the other mammals in our area. To read about this in more detail, click here.

They can breed most of the year, but most young are born in the spring and summer. A female can have up to three litters a year. Still they have a relatively short lifespan and there are many risks to the slow moving opossum in nature.

Fun Facts

  • The opossum has 13 nipples arranged in a circle, with one in the middle. As a result only 13 of her offspring can survive.
  • They can hang from their tails for short period of time. Tails also help for balance.
  • They play dead when frightened (ever heard the phrase, “playing possum”?). This is an actual physiological change where breathing slows and the animal goes into a coma-like state.


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