While working in a large Animal Shelter, I had contact with thousands of opossums! Thank goodness, a few years ago the County ceased accepting trapped wildlife so, people had to learn to live peacefully with Opossums.
Lots of people think that Opossums are aggressive due to their big mouths and 50 sharp teeth! Actually, Opossums are solitary, gentle and placid animals. Adults are normally quite slow moving and will only open their mouth to show their teeth and hiss when fearful. They don’t initiate aggression. They will retreat whenever possible.
Opossums are actually very beneficial to our areas. They are omnivores, so that they eat both meat and vegetation. They are essentially scavengers, cleaning up the rotten fruit and debris in our lawns, as well as carrion (dead road kill, etc.) They will eat insects, snails, slugs, worms, berries, nuts, grass, leaves and pet food. They are quite flexible and make due with whatever food and water is available. Just about every lawn has Opossums walking around at night. Trust me, they’re not a threat to you or your pets.
Adult Opossums are about the size of an adult cat. The tail can be 9″ to 21″ long. They use their thick, prehensile tail to scale and sometimes to carry leaves, etc.. Opossums can live in trees however, the adults can’t hang by their tails while they sleep. Opossums will make a den in any dark, quiet location. They don’t put much effort into creating a home.
Opossums are North America’s only marsupial mammal (female that has a pouch for carrying her young).
The Opossum’s breeding season is from February to June. They become adults and begin breeding at @ 1 year old. They can have 1 – 2 litters per season, depending upon the climate. The gestation (time from conception to birth) is only 12 – 14 days. The mother has 13 teats and that’s the maximum number of infants she can nurse. Usually, 13 babies will not make it in the pouch and of the ones that do, only about 3 to 6 will make it to weaning age. The infants are born undeveloped embryos. They’re just about 1/4″ long and about the size of a Honey Bee. After they are born, they scoot into the mothers pouch where they latch onto a teat. After the babies latch on, the teat swells and elongates and they stay there constantly.
The infants are weaned at 2-3 months old and are considered juveniles. At this time they are 6″ to 7″ long. They become independent of their mother when they are 6 – 12 months old and about 7″ to 10″ long. They become mating adults when they’re @ 1 year old. The adult males are larger than the females.
When Opossums are extremely frightened, they can go into an involuntary “shock – like” or “fainting state.” They first wake up by wiggling their ears.
When they are unconscious, they usually have an open mouth and appear to be dead.
Opossums just live 2 – 4 years. They’ve a lot of predators! Between individuals, cars, cats, dogs, owls and bigger wildlife, Opossums do not survive very long.
So, the next time you see one roaming around at night, try to look the other way. They really aren’t as bad as they look. If they are bothersome you can call Wildlife Control Service Port St Lucie to humanely relocate them.