Virginia Opossum

Didelphis virginiana

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  • Virginia Opossum |  Photo: NPS
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Basic Information

Order

Didelphimorphia

Family

Didelphidae

Size

Virginia Opossums are generally between 1 and 2 feet in length.

Lifespan

up to 2.5 years

Weight

Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) facts, habitat, diet, range, opossum pictures and more to help you learn to identify North America's only marsupial.

Diet

Omnivore

Breeding

Virginia Opossums can bread up to 3 times per year. That number varies depending geography. Females can have up to 30 in a litter, but females only have 13 teats, so the likelihood of more than 13 surviving is slim. Newborn opossums are about the size of a quarter and basically helpless. They do have strong front legs which aid them in climbing in the mother’s pouch. Opossums reach sexual maturity around 6 months of age, but don’t generally breed for a another few months.

Range

Eastern U.S., Midwest, Pacific Coast

Number of Offspring

6-30 offspring

What does the Virginia Opossum look like?

Virginia Opossums are stout marsupials with short legs. They are roughly the same size as the common house cat. Their fur is generally gray, but can vary from reddish brown to blackish. They have long white-tipped course guard hairs. Their coloration varies with range. North populations tend to have lighter guard hairs and thicker under fur, while southern populations tend to be darker in color and have thinner guard hairs. They have long tails, which aid in climbing. Their faces are a grayish white and have large essentially hairless ears.

Virginia Opossum Habitat

Forests

Virginia Opossum Facts

Virginia Opossums are opportunistic nocturnal feeders. They will eat just about anything including garbage in urban environments. They are excellent climbers and their long strong tail serves as an extra limb when climbing. They also have sharp claws which allow them to grip trees easily. They have many predators including birds of prey such as owls. They are also common prey of foxes, coyotes and raccoons. When Opossums become threatened and scared they involuntarily feign death, IE “play possum.” When this happens the Opossum enters a coma like state and appears dead, a putrid green liquid comes out of the anus and repels predators. This does not always happen, Opossums will fight as well however.

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