About Opossums: Appearance, Biology, Life Cycle, Habitat, Diet, And Behavior
Among the wildlife that can invade your property or even your home, opossums are one of the most common types of animals to do so. There are at least 60 different species classified as opossums, but the common opossum, also known as the Virginia opossum, is the only pouched mammal (marsupial) that can be found in the United States or Canada. Opossums date back to dinosaur extinction and are also sometimes referred to as possums and this is simply an abbreviated way of saying the animal's name. Despite this designation, it is important to note that opossums are in no way related to possums in Australia.
Opossums are typically about 2.5 feet long between their nose and tail and will weight between 8.8 and 13.2 pounds, making them around the same size as a large cat. Opossums typically have white fur on their face and gray fur on the rest of their body. Their ears are hairless and they have dark eyes and a long, pointy snout. The hairless tail of the opossum is long, covering more than a third of the entire body length.
This creature has the most teeth of any land animal on the continent, with 50. It has a hairless tail that is prehensile, meaning it can be used to grip items such as branches and nesting material or for balancing. It is, however, a myth that opossums hang upside down from their tails. The hind feet of this animal have opposable thumbs to make it easier to grip branches.
Biology And Life Cycle
The gestation period of an opossum lasts between 11 and 13 days. When opossum babies are born, they are as small as honeybees and completely helpless. Immediately after birth, they enter their mother's pouch and develop there. They begin leaving the pouch as they grow and at a certain point, they will begin to ride on their mother's back while she searches for food. Although opossum litters can contain up to 20 babies, less than half of them survive in the wild, with many not even reaching their mother's pouch.
Most opossums will live between one and two years in the wild because of numerous predators. This short life span is due to the numerous predators who hunt opossums, including cats, dogs, foxes, eagles, owls, and other birds of prey. These animals are also frequently killed by cars or sometimes hunted by humans for their meat, depending on the area of the country. This animal does have an excellent immune system, however, and they have shown at least partial immunity to venom from a range of pit vipers, such as cottonmouths and rattlesnakes. Their high immunity also reduces their risk of contracting rabies.
This particular type of wild animal is commonly found throughout the United States and can live in woodland, farmland, grassland, and urban areas. They frequently nest in holes within a tree or dens that have been created by other animals. The common theme is that an opossum will not build its own shelter. They tend to look for habitats that are in close proximity to water.
Opossums are considered scavengers, which means they will eat nearly any food they can find. that means that when in urban areas, they will raid dumpsters, garbage cans, or other containers. They have also been known to eat roadkill or carrion and hunt snakes, frogs, worms, insects, birds, mice, and chickens. As omnivores, opossums also eat fruit, nuts, and grass. Because of their varied diet, opossums can help keep neighborhoods clean by eating the unwanted rodents and garden pests.
One of the most famous behaviors of opossums is playing dead, which they do when they feel threatened, whether it is by a bobcat, fox, or dog. This involves the animal flopping onto its side and then lying down on the ground, either staring at a fixed point in space or keeping their eyes closed with their tongues out to appear dead. Experts believe that this behavior is a way of putting predators off guard so the opossums can escape. Because of this behavior, you should never assume an opossum you find is dead even if it appears so. Instead, give it a few hours to leave before contacting a professional to take care of the potentially dead animal.
Opossums are also excellent climbers, spending a large amount of time in trees. They use their sharp claws to dig into the bark and their long prehensile tail is useful as an additional limb. These are also nocturnal animals, meaning they are mostly active after dark. You will notice less possum activity during the winter months, but they do not hibernate. Opossums tend to live alone, with the exception of during breeding or in the case of mothers with her babies.
Read the How to get rid of opossums page for helpful information and to learn more about About Opossums: Appearance, Biology, Life Cycle, Habitat, Diet, And Behavior
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