Opossums (also known as possums) are North America’s only pouch breeding species (marsupial). They also have more teeth than any other mammal (50) and opposable thumbs with no claws on their rear feet. Aside from these special features, an opossum looks a lot like a large rat. It has a long, pointy snout, a hairless tail and distinctive grayish-black coloring throughout the body, while the head remains white.
The Virginia Opossum is the only opossum species in the U.S. and is mostly found east of the Rockies. Opossums prefer wooded areas, but they have adapted to urban habitats very well. Because opossums don’t build their own dens, they are more likely to take a residence in or under man-made structures like old buildings, sheds, porches, etc. In the wild, they don’t mind making a home on abandoned burrows of other animals like foxes and groundhogs.
Opossums are omnivorous, which means they eat both plant and animal matter. They are not selective in their diet and will feed on anything they can find. This could be insects, crayfish, snakes, small rodents, snails, eggs, grasses, berries, vegetables and even animal carcasses. Since the latter are in abundance in high-traffic areas along the side of the road, it’s common to encounter an opossum as you drive. That’s also when they are likely to become roadkill themselves due to their slow reflexes.
Female opossums can have 1-3 litters a year, each averaging between 6 and 9 young. The babies (called joeys) are born premature only two weeks after parents mate and then continue their development in the mother’s pouch for the next 2-3 months. Even after they leave the pouch, joeys stay close to their mother for their first month and can sometimes be seen riding on her back as she forages for food.
Opossums live on average 2 to 3 years and have high mortality rates at all ages. Not all newborn opossums make it to the pouch, and of those that do, 10% to 20% perish before they are weaned. Overall, less than 10% of the litter makes it through the first year of life, which is one of the reasons why opossums have so many babies. Besides being run over by human vehicles, another major cause of death of opossums is internal and external parasites. But even in the safest and ideal conditions, opossums are known to age very fast.
Do you have a nuisance opossum on your property? Contact us today to have it safely and humanely removed and relocated.