Opossums live a very specific lifestyle, but there are still probably several facts about opossums that you don’t know about. Within this guide, you will have the opportunity to learn all about opossums as we explore different shocking facts about their lifestyle in the wilderness.
Most people know that opossums are small wild animals that live in swamps and forests across North America. Opossums are commonly recognized for being a marsupial, which means they are a land-based animal that has a pouch. This pouch is used to protect their babies until they are mature enough to become independent and survive on their own.
There are several important facts about opossums that the average person probably doesn’t know about. A good place to start is to probably discuss why their population numbers are so incredibly stable.
Opossums give birth to large numbers of babies per litter. It’s common for mother opossums to give birth to more than a dozen babies. They also have a very short gestation period, approximately two weeks. This formula for reproduction allows for possums to breed rapidly when their mating season starts in early January. While a significant percentage of the babies will not survive, it’s still likely that several of them will eventually mature and become independent.
10 Facts About Opossums
In this section, we will explore and discuss three of the most important facts that you should know about opossums. We will start by talking about something that they are known for doing, which is ‘playing dead’.
#1 – Opossums Play Dead
Most people know that opossums play dead, but a significant percentage of those people don’t know why. An opossum will play dead when they are experiencing a major level of fear. One of the remarkable aspects about this is that opossums can’t actually control when they play dead.
An opossum’s reaction to their fear is simply a natural emotional response that comes from opossums when they are in panic mode. It’s not uncommon for opossums to remain in an unconscious state for several hours before waking up from their coma.
#2 – Opossums Are Nocturnal
Many animals are nocturnal, which has certain advantages and disadvantages. Opossums fall into this category because they sleep during the day and come out to scavenge at night. The reason that they are nocturnal is that there are fewer predators out at night. They also have poor vision, which means they would be at a major disadvantage during the daylight hours.
#3 – Opossums Don’t Live For Very Long
It’s kind of sad to think that opossums are destined to die so quickly after being born. Many opossum babies never even survive a few weeks before they pass away. Even the longest living opossums can only expect to live for around three or four years.
Predators are one of the primary factors for this. As opossums get older, they begin to struggle to survive because their senses deteriorate and they can’t effectively protect themselves.
#4 Opossum Can be Spelled With a P
When saying the word opossum, the “o” is usually silent. Because many people pronounce it without the “o” it is still acceptable to spell it “Possum” with a “p” even though technically, an opossum and a possum are two different animals. One is from North America the other is from Australia.
Both animals are marsupials and are very similar to each other. To find out more about the difference between the two check out our article here.
#5 Opossums Have 50 Teeth
One of the most noticeable things about an opossum besides its long tail is the number of teeth that they have. Opossums have 50 sharp teeth. They use their teeth as a defense mechanism, showing their teeth and growling. The opossum has more teeth than any other mammal in North America. Source.
#6 Opossums Have Nests
Opossums are one animal that uses a nest for bedding and other reasons. The rare thing about opossums, however, is that they do not make their own nest. They look for abandoned dens with nests. Rarely on occasion, if no nest can be found, you will see an opossum putting together a nest from different items that they can scavenge.
#7 Some Opossums Can Hang Upside Down
Young opossums can hang upside down by their tails, similar to the way bats do. As they grow older and larger, they are no longer able to support their own weight with their tail and they lose this cute ability to hang out like a bat. The opossum has a long tail, at about 8 inches to a whopping 2 ft!
#8 Opossums Eat Ticks and Slow the Spread of Lyme Disease
Opossums eat a lot of ticks. Which is good for you, since ticks carry and spread Lyme disease. Having opossums in your yard may cause a little bit of digging and damage, but they are beneficial to the environment. It’s not easy for an opossum to spread rabies either, because their body temperature stays too low.
#9 Opossums can be Immune to Some Snake Venoms
Opossums are equipped with many defense mechanisms. Along with their many other talents, they are also immune to many snake venoms. Because they have this talent, they also feed on snakes. Only one snake is known to be venomous to the opossum in its home region, and that is the Coral snake.
#10 Opossums are the only North American Marsupial
Opossums are the only marsupial that is native to North America. Marsupials are mammals who have pouches, to carry their young. One of the most notable marsupials is the kangaroos of Australia. Or the Australian possum, which is often confused with the opossum, because of their names.
Opossums are small but interesting creatures. They creep around at night, hunting for food, and looking for nests to invade. They have built-in mechanisms that help them in the wild, almost like superpowers.
It’s a shame that their lives are so short in the wild and that they do not get the opportunity to thrive the same way other animals do. Nature can be cruel, but opossums have carved out their place in the forest.