As the only marsupial that is naturally found throughout North and South American, the opossum is a unique creature. While they are common in suburban areas, they can be hard to spot. They prefer to spend their time in trees and only become active at night. As a result, you may not have had many encounters with these animals or know a lot about their habits.
While there are 60 different species of opossum, the Virginia opossum is the most common and probably the type that most people picture. This species grows to be about 2.5 feet long and can weigh from around 9 to 13 pounds, making them about the size of a small dog. Their appearance is characterized by a narrow pink snout, long tail that they use to hang from trees, and coarse fur. The top layer of fur is made up of guard hairs, which serve as a sort of natural raincoat that shields the opossum from snow and rain. Typically, they are black and white in color with some red mixed in.
Opossums are famous for a few things:
- They have long tails that are capable of grabbing onto branches and supporting their weight. This is commonly referred to as prehensile and is also found in monkeys.
- Their main mode of defense against predators is to play dead. When confronted, they will lay on their backs with their tongue hanging out. This act can last up to six hours.
- While opossums are not aggressive to humans, they are known to make a hissing sound when discovered in the wild.
Opossums are not picky eaters. They have a diet that consists of both meat and plants and they aren’t afraid to scavenge through trash or indulge in roadkill. When they live in more rural areas, they will hunt for insects, birds, mice, snakes, worms, and even the occasional chicken.
Opossums mate twice a year. Male opossums are known as jacks and will leave the female (jill) once the mating process has been completed. After about 12-13 days, the female will give birth to about 20 joeys that are about the size of a jelly bean. For the next 100 days, the mom will carry her babies on her back. Ultimately, most of the joeys don’t survive.
Opossums are just one of the many amazing animals that call North Carolina home. These marsupials are harmless to humans and may actually help with pest control. To learn more and get help with other pest control issues, contact PMi Pest Management.