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Virginia Opossum

Virginia Opossum
Didelphis virginiana

Family:

Didelphidae, opossum family

Conservation Status:

Least concern, IUCN

Distribution:

Southern and eastern North America with an introduced population along the U.S. west coast

Habitat:

A combination of large trees and shrub thickets near water and crop fields

Factoid:

The only marsupial in the United States

An opossum is a very slow runner and will try to escape predators by climbing the nearest tree. When cornered on the ground, it initially exhibits a threatening posture, hissing and making low growls. If attacked, it generally lies very still as if paralyzed or dead, a habit called “playing possum”. It also emits a foul smelling substance when threatened.   Adult opossum is 2 to 3 feet long and weighs between 4 and 12 pounds. It has an elongated snout, a pink nose, black eyes and prominent, naked black ears. Its head is usually white and its coarse body fur is mostly grayish white but tends to be darker on its legs. Opossums have 50 teeth and opposable, clawless thumbs on their rear limbs.

A female opossum usually has two litters per year. Mating occurs in mid-January through February and continues into August. Young under-developed opossums are born 13 days after mating. They migrate to the female’s pouch where they continue to develop for several weeks. The young emerge from the pouch when they are 1 1/2 to 2 months old and ride on their mother’s back.

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