- Common Name(s): Opossum, Virginia Opossum
- Order: Didelphimorphia
- Family: Didelphidae
- Common Species: Didelphis virginiana
- Commonly Confused With: Rodents
How to Identify?
Most often the Virginia opossum has gray hair, though they can appear more tan or black in some areas. The face is pointed or cone-shaped, and is usually white or light gray in color. They have long, mostly hairless tails reaching up to a foot in length. Adult opossums weigh between 3.5-8 pounds depending on the gender, time of year, and physical location.
Where do they live?
Opossums live in wooded areas, suburban areas, and rural areas alike. They do not have many habitat constraints. They prefer to be near a water source (river, pond, stream, swamp, etc.), but residing near a source of water is not key to their survival. Their ability to adapt to almost any habitat is what can make them such a nuisance.
What do they eat?
These animals have a versatile array of food sources. They are fond of fruits, acorns and other nuts, veggies, insects, other invertebrates (animals lacking a backbone), small vertebrates (voles, lizards, ground birds, and even other opossums young), venomous snakes, and dead or decaying matter (carrion).
What do they do?
Opossums can become an issue when they live in close proximity to humans. They get into the garbage, kill avians including avian livestock, steal seeds or nuts from bird feeders, and they can get into attics or under homes. In the attic, they can become an issue because they can spread a couple of different diseases, cause damage to your home, steal your pet’s food, and stink horribly, not to mention make noise when you are trying to rest.
Opossums are the only marsupials we have in North America. There are different species of opossum, but they all fall into the same marsupial category! Another cool fact is that “They [Opossums] have even been known to kill and eat venomous snakes (opossums are remarkably immune to snake venom)” (The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, 2006).
- The Georgia Department of Natural Resources–Wildlife Resources Division. (2006). OPOSSUM FACT SHEET [PDF] (p. 1). Georgia. Retrieved from https://georgiawildlife.com/sites/default/files/wrd/pdf/fact-sheets/2006_opossum.pdf
Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist
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