While working in a large Animal Shelter, I’d contact with tens of thousands of opossums! Most had been hit by cars, attacked and injured by dogs caught in traps by taxpayers and picked up by our Animal Control Officers. Thank goodness, a couple of years ago the County ceased accepting trapped wildlife so, people had to learn how to live peacefully with Opossums.
Lots of individuals feel that Opossums are aggressive due to their large mouths and 50 sharp teeth! In fact, Opossums are solitary, gentle and placid creatures. Adults are normally quite slow moving and will only open their mouth to show their teeth and hiss when fearful. They do not initiate aggression. They’ll retreat whenever possible.
Opossums are actually quite beneficial to our areas. They’re omnivores, so that they eat both meat and plant. They are essentially scavengers, cleaning up the rotten fruit and debris in our lawns, in addition to carrion (dead road kill, etc.) They will eat insects, snails, slugs, worms, berries, nuts, grass, leaves and pet food. They are quite flexible and make due with whatever food and water is available. Pretty much every lawn has Opossums walking around at night. Trust me, they’re not a threat to you or your pets.
The tail could be 9″ to 21″ long. They use their thick, prehensile tail to scale and occasionally to carry leaves, etc.. Opossums can live in trees however, the adults can’t hang by their tails while they sleep. They do not put much effort into creating a house.
Opossums are North America’s only marsupial mammal (female which has a pouch for carrying her young).
The Opossum’s breeding season is from February to June. They become adults and begin breeding at @ 1 year old. They could have 1 – 2 litters per season, depending upon the climate. The gestation (period from conception to birth) is just 12 – 14 days. The mother has 13 teats and that’s the maximum number of infants she can nurse. Usually, 13 babies will not make it in the pouch and of the ones that do, only about 3 to 6 will make it to weaning age. The infants are born undeveloped embryos. As soon as they are born, they scoot into the mothers pouch where they latch onto a teat. After the babies latch on, the teat swells and elongates and they remain there constantly.
The infants are weaned at 2-3 months old and are considered juveniles. They become independent of the mother when they’re 6 – 12 months old and approximately 7″ to 10″ long. They become breeding adults whenever they’re @ 1 year old. The adult males are bigger than the females.
When Opossums are really frightened, they could enter an involuntary”shock – like” or”fainting state.” They first wake up by wiggling their ears.
When they are unconscious, they normally have an open mouth and seem to be dead.
Opossums just live 2 – 4 decades. They’ve a good deal of predators! Between individuals, cars, cats, dogs, owls and bigger wildlife, Opossums do not survive very long.
So, the next time you see one roaming around at night, try and look the other way.
They really are not as bad as they seem.