The Virginia opossum is the only opossum (Didelphidae
) and the only marsupial in North America. Female marsupials have an external abdominal pouch.
The Virginia Opossum
, Didelphis virginiana
, is found in areas with trees, including large cities, throughout Florida. Color varies widely from almost white to almost black, though most commonly it is gray. It has a long (11-14"), hairless, prehensile tail. It has a pointed pink nose, prominent whiskers, and small, black, hairless ears with white tips. It has opposable thumbs on its hind feet. Overall body length is 27-33".
The opossum has a slow, ambling gait, yet is an excellent climber. It forages both on the ground and in the trees, primarily at night. It is omnivorous and opportunistic, eating frogs, mice, rattlesnakes (it's immune to pit viper venom), fish, worms, insects, eggs, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Food plants include cedars
, and pawpaws
Opossums have two litters each year, breeding from December through midsummer. The gestation period is only 13 days. A litter of 18-25 is born but because there are only 13 teats in the pouch, no more than 13 can survive. The actual number leaving the pouch at 70-80 days old is usually 6 or 7. Once the young do leave the pouch, they hang onto the mother's back or tail. They move on when they are about 4 months old.
The opossum is shy and solitary. When threatened it will often hiss or growl, but will rarely attack. It may "play possum", going limp and appearing to be dead.
Predators include foxes, bobcats, coyotes, owls, dogs, cats, and man.
[ Mammal Index | Protected Mammals ]