North America’s only marsupial (a mammal that carries its underdeveloped young in a pouch until they are capable of living independently)
An adult opossum is about the size of a large house cat, with coarse, grizzled grayish fur. It has a long, scaly tail, ears without fur, and a long, pointed snout that ends in a pink nose.
Litter sizes can range from 5-25 young; 9 is average. Opossums can have 1-3 litters per year. Opossums in Ohio typically have 1 litter per year.
Opossums are quite adaptable and can also be found in suburbia and the city. Their ideal habitat, however, is an area interspersed with woods, wetlands, and farmland. The den is usually situated in a wooded area near water.
The opossum’s best-known behavior is that of “playing possum.” When threatened, the opossum may hiss and bare its teeth. More likely, though, it will roll over and lay motionless, appearing to be dead. When the danger is past, the opossum “revives” and resumes its activities.
Opossums are omnivorous and will eat carrion, insects, fish, reptiles, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
Opossums have 50 teeth, the most teeth of any mammal in North America!
Opossums are huge tick-eaters! They especially like the black-legged ticks like deer ticks that spread Lyme disease.
Opossums have opposable thumbs like humans (which means it can bend and touch all other digits of the hand). Can you imagine how hard it would be to climb a tree without using your thumbs? What other things might be more difficult?
1.) Tape (or tie) your thumb to your first finger. Not too tight! Just keep your thumb form moving.
2.) Now try the following tasks: tying your shoe, opening a bottle, throwing a ball in the air and catching it, hold a spoon (and scoop ice cream to your mouth), open a pop can, hold someone’s hand, write your name, use scissors to cut a square out of paper, button a button on your coat or shirt.
Did you find it more difficult to do everyday things without using your thumbs? That’s why we love our thumbs!
Make your own Virginia Opossum critter with items found at home!
Want to learn more about the Virginia Opossum? Here are some additional sources...