Opossum Yellow River

OPOSSUM

{ didelphis virginiana }
Mistakenly called “possums,” they are actually two completely different animals.

PROFILE

Ravioli and Gnocchi are sisters opossums that came to us from a rehabber in Valdosta. They hardly ever leave each other’s side. You can tell them apart by size – Ravioli is the larger one and Gnocchi is the smaller one.

OVERVIEW

IUCN not listed
CONSERVATION STATUS

Not Listed

opossum size compared to human
AVERAGE SIZE

Compared to a 6′ Man

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AVERAGE WEIGHT

9 – 13 lbs

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AVERAGE LIFESPAN

2 – 4 Years

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DIET

Omnivore

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REGIONS

Central and North America

Commonly found across the eastern parts of North America and throughout Central America. Their habitats consist of wooded areas and swamps but that widely varies. They prefer warmer climates as they do not hibernate but will hole up during very cold weather as it risks getting frostbite on its hairless fingers, toes and ears.

APPEARANCE

Opossums are most easily recognized, even in the dark, by their long, prehensile tails. They have long, pointed heads with large dark eyes. Their fur is fairly long and grayish with white tips giving them a grizzled appearance. They have upright, hairless ears and hairless, pink toes and fingers. Their hind feet have an opposable digit with no claw. Opossums are the only marsupials, or pouched animals, in the northern hemisphere. They also have 50 teeth, more than any other land mammal in North America.

CHARACTERISTICS

One of the oldest surviving mammals, opossums are mainly nocturnal, solitary animals. They forage for food and their strong memory helps them return over and over again especially when they come across tasty dog or cat food left in the same spot by homeowners.

Their most famous characteristic is their tendency to “play dead.” When facing a threat they will seize and collapse, possibly remaining in that “dead” position for hours. While that fact is well known, most people are never close enough to know the opossum also secretes a foul odor, much like a skunk, to further scare away possible predators. Both actions are involuntary.

A sturdy little animal, opossums have a lower body temperature because they are marsupials, thus they rarely carry rabies as they are not a suitable environment for the virus. While generally thought of as pests and frightening, opossums are actually great addition to your back yard. As they are generally immune to most snake venoms, they prey on them. They also help slow the spread of Lyme’s disease as ticks are one of their favorite snacks.

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