While working at a large Animal Shelter, I’d contact with thousands of opossums! Most had been hit by cars, attacked and injured by dogs caught in traps by residents and picked up by our Animal Control Officers. Thank goodness, a few years ago the County ceased accepting trapped wildlife so, people had to learn how to live peacefully with Opossums.
Many individuals feel that Opossums are aggressive due to their large mouths and 50 sharp teeth! In fact, Opossums are solitary, gentle and placid creatures. They avoid confrontation! Adults are usually very 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 very beneficial to our areas. They’re omnivores, so that they eat both meat and vegetation. They are basically scavengers, cleaning up the rotten fruit and debris in our yards, as well as carrion (dead road kill, etc.) They will eat insects, snails, slugs, worms, berries, nuts, grass, leaves and pet food. They are very adaptable and make due with whatever food and water is available. Just about every lawn has Opossums walking around at night. Trust me, they are not a threat to you or your pets.
Mature Opossums are about the size of an adult cat. 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 but, the adults can not hang by their tails while they sleep. They do not put much effort into creating a home.
Opossums are North America’s only marsupial mammal (female which has a pouch for carrying her young). They’re also nocturnal (sleep during the day and active at night).
The Opossum’s mating season is from February to June. They become adults and begin mating at @ 1 year old. They could have 1 – 2 litters per season, depending on the climate. The gestation (period from conception to birth) is only 12 – 14 days. The mother has 13 teats and that’s the maximum number of babies she can nurse. Usually, 13 babies will not make it into the pouch and of those that do, only about 3 to 6 will make it to weaning age. The babies are born undeveloped embryos. They’re just about 1/4″ long and about the size of a Honey Bee. After they are born, they scoot to the mothers pouch where they latch onto a teat. After the babies latch on, the teat swells and elongates and they remain there at all times.
The infants are weaned at 2-3 months old and are considered juveniles. They become independent of the mother when they are 6 – 12 months old and approximately 7″ to 10″ long. They become mating adults when they’re @ 1 year old. The adult males are larger than the females.
When Opossums are really frightened, they can go into an involuntary”shock – like” or”fainting state.” This unconscious state can last from 40 minutes to 4 hours. They first wake up by wiggling their ears.
When they are unconscious, they normally have an open mouth and appear to be dead.
Opossums just live 2 – 4 decades. They’ve a good deal of predators! Between humans, cars, dogs, cats, owls and bigger wildlife, Opossums don’t survive very long.
So, next time you see one roaming around at night, try to look another way.
They really aren’t as bad as they seem.
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