Virginia opossum are hunted because their meat, fat, and bones are believed to help with inflammation, colitis, gastritis, skin infections, heart attacks, epilepsy, allergies, dermatitis, and coughing.
Virginia opossums invest little in parental care; males provide no parental care, while females offer moderate care being protective of their pouches, but not of their young, specifically.
Virginia opossums have short lifespans with females living longer than males and captive ones living longer than wild individuals at 3-4 years compared to 1.5-2 years, but records top 10 years.
Although it is usually illegal, Virginia opossums are kept as pets, in which they adopt a more diurnal lifestyle, can be litter-trained, and often develop obesity.
Virginia opossum are born tiny and under-developed with muscular front legs to allow them to climb to their mother’s pouch, however; only about 1 in 3 will survive the trip.
FaunaFocus has had another successful SketchAlong! Several viewers tuned in for the Twitch livestream on September 14th, 2018, and sketched along with Noelle M. Brooks as she led them through the proportions and anatomy of the Virginia opossum. Focusing on several different positions of the opossum, such as its well-known “playing possum” death feinting behavior, each participant worked with their own materials and interpreted the photographic references in their own recognizable style…. Read More
Virginia opossums are solitary and will show aggression towards each other by “dancing” and lashing their tails while secreting from their dual anal glands.
After leaving their mother’s pouch, young Virginia opossums stay in the den or ride on her back until weaned around 100 days old, at which time they become independent.
Although Virginia opossums are important seed dispersers and can carry a variety of internal and external parasites, it is unusual for this species to be a carrier of rabies.
Early in life, young opossums have a very high mortality rate with about 68% not surviving the trip to the mother’s pouch and 60% perishing once weaned and independent.
Virginia opossums utilize a defensive catatonic death feigning state, known as “going opossum,” in which the animal becomes motionless for minutes to hours.
Even though a female Virginia opossum gives birth to 4-25 young after a 12-13-day gestation, she generally only has 13 mammae, some of which may be nonfunctional.
Virginia opossums are generally slow and clumsy, but will show directional turns and run up to 7.4 kph when pursued to avoid being captured.
Because female Virginia opossums lick at the offspring in their pouches, it was once mistaken that they breed with their noses and afterward, the young crawl from the nostrils into the pouch.
The Virginia opossum’s long breeding season varies based on location and the number of litters varies based on climate with 1 litter per year in the north and 3 in warmer zones.
The Virginia opossum is the only living marsupial found in the United States.
Virginia opossums nest in brush piles, hollow trees, buildings, drainage areas, and abandoned burrows covered with woody cover and filled with dry leaves or paper.
Because of its ability to adapt to human-altered habitats and its widespread range, the Virginia opossum is listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Virginia opossums engage in a polygynous mating system in which males vie for females with metallic clicks and chest scent glands which emit a musky odor and stain the fur.
The Virginia opossum has a relatively small brain case, and the corpus callosum is absent in this species.
The Virginia opossum’s perception channels are specialized for its nocturnal behavior, being most active from dusk until dawn and not hibernating during the colder seasons.
The Virginia opossum’s diet changes based on season, habit, and range as they consume more vertebrates in colder seasons and more invertebrates, plants, fruits, and seeds in warmer months.
Due to their small size, nocturnal habits, and high reproductive output, Viriginia opossums thrive in woodlands, thickets, forests, shrublands, and even urban areas, but prefer areas near water.
The Virginia opossum’s coloration is typically gray but may be tinted red, brown, or black, and varies based on location, being light gray in the north and dark gray in the south.
Virginia opossums may be predated upon by owls, dogs, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, bobcats, snakes, and humans, but are immune to the venom of a variety of snakes from the family, Viperidae.
Although the Virginia opossum is mostly arboreal and terrestrial, it is also a strong swimmer with no fear of water and can seal its pouch and nostrils, hold its breath, float, swim, and dive with ease.
Virginia opossums were once considered nomadic, but are now known to keep oval-shaped home ranges, with males keeping larger ranges than females.
Virginia opossums are terrestrial; however, they are also adept climbers with prehensile tails and specialized feet with opposable halluxes for climbing and denning in trees.
The Virginia opossum is a homeotherm that has a much lower amount of expanded energy due to thermoregulation than any other placental mammal.
The Virginia opossum’s hairless, scale-like, prehensile tail is relatively large, usually around 90% of its total body length.
Virginia opossums are hardy, stout, robust individuals with short legs, hairless ears, and thick bodies and males tend to be larger and heavier than females.
Due to inadequate thermoregulatory abilities and poorly insulated fur, Virginia opossums are ill-equipped for cold temperatures and are, thus, not found in the northern regions of the United States and Canada.