Opossums face tough challenges in the wilderness for a lot of different reasons. The topic of focus today will be relating to the average size of an opossum. They face many survival challenges in their local environment simply due to their size. Since opossums are one of the smallest animals in the forest, most other animals fall into the category of being a danger.
How Big is a Full Grown Opossum?
Male opossums and female opossums have different average sizes. It’s common for males to be slightly larger, usually spanning a total length of about 3 and a half feet. Females are usually just a little smaller, averaging about 3 feet in total size. They weigh 8 to 13 pounds, stand 6 inches tall, and are around the size of a small dog or cat.
Their small size certainly has a large list of pros and cons. Some of the advantages include the ability to fit into narrow underground passage tunnels that lead to their dens. Another is that they can conveniently move around and find abandoned shelters that other small animals may leave behind.
It’s not all positive though, especially since opossums have many predators that are much larger than they are. The list includes foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and even domestic pets like dogs and cats.
See our article for Opossum Predators here.
Opossum Size at Birth vs. Size at Maturity
Baby opossums are born at a size that may not be larger than a coin. They rapidly grew from this miniature size to their full mature size in a matter of months. After about three months, they’ll grow to be about half a foot or so. Some opossums may be slightly larger or smaller, depending on certain conditions, but most young opossums will fall into those sizing estimates.
After about seven or eight months, most opossums reach their full size and will stop growing. This is also known as their age of maturity. At this point, they are generally completely independent and should be capable of surviving in the wilderness alone.
The remarkable thing about this growing process is that many opossums have already lived near half their life before they even finish growing. Opossums are known for having a very short lifespan, which ultimately leads to many of them living for less than three years.
See our article for Opossum Babies here.
How Long Are Opossum Tails?
Opossums have lengthy tails that can also be measured and evaluated based on their size. Some opossums have tails that are nearly two feet in total length, while others may have shorter tails that are closer to about one foot.
Males generally have longer tails than females, but this isn’t necessarily always the case. Most opossums will have a minimum tail length of six inches when they reach their full mature age.
Size of Opossum Footprints
Identifying opossum footprints can be a little bit more challenging than you might expect. They have footprints commonly between two and three inches in full diameter. In certain situations, they may have rear footprints that look to be larger than their front footprints.
Opossum tracks commonly share their shape with the palm of a human being. Opossum tracks can look very similar to handprints from a human being, but opossum tracks will generally be only a fraction of the size.
While an opossum’s footprints may only be a few inches in length, they can still be identified without too much of a challenge. Other animals that live in similar regions may also have similar-looking footprints. Many people commonly mistake squirrel footprints and raccoon footprints with opossum tracks.
Get the full story with our article Opossum Tracks here.
Opossums Experience Fear Due To Their Size
One of the first topics that always comes up when most people talk about opossums is that they can play dead. The thing that most people don’t understand is that opossums don’t choose to go unconscious, it’s actually just a natural reaction.
When opossums experience great fear due to a much larger predator being nearby, opossums faint into a temporary coma that has a few side effects. First of all, there’s no exact countdown clock for when they wake up. It can be a few minutes or it can last for several hours, it’s totally random in many cases.
Opossums may experience more fear when their predator is much larger than them. For example, opossums may be more likely to ‘play dead’ when interacting with a bobcat rather than a squirrel.
Since opossums are much smaller than many of their most common predators (they stand about 6 inches tall), many people connect their smaller size with their level of anxiety in the wilderness. Opossums have to be anxious, careful, and stealthy at all times. Even when they handle themselves perfectly, they’re still facing a short lifespan and tough survival odds with every passing day. Source.
Opossum Size Chart
Opossums come in many sizes. However, as we have mentioned, the males are usually a little larger than the females. To help show this size comparison, we’ve created this opossum size chart.
If opossums are causing damage to your property or you are afraid they could harm your pets, then consider securing your trash bins and do not leave pet food or food scraps outside. Source.
How much do opossums grow?
Opossums are only as large as a coin when they are born and they grow several feet in size between that moment in time and the point when they reach full maturity.
Why are females smaller than male opossums?
Male opossums generally eat more than females, which is one major contributing factor for their size difference. Other local traits and adaptations can also have an impact on this size difference, although there are some rare situations where a female opossum may be larger than a male.