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Virginia Opossum

Dilelphis virginiana

Virginia Opossum

Description – A mammal with light to dark grayish fur, short, leathery ears, a long, slender snout, and a scaly, prehensile tail. Head and body length 38 – 51 cm. (15 – 20 in.); tail length 23 – 51 cm. (9 – 20 in.); weight 1.8 – 4.5 kg. (9 – 13 lbs.)

Distribution in Texas – Statewide, except areas of the Trans-Pecos and Llano Estacado of the Panhandle.

Habitat – The only marsupial in North America, the Virginia Opossum is mainly nocturnal, inhabiting wooded areas but also found in prairies, marshes, and rural areas. Burrows are found in hollow trees, logs as well as underground.

Opossums are generally solitary creatures who feed shortly after dark. In winter months their diet is more carnivorous as opposed to warm months when more fruits and berries are available.

"Playing opossum" is an involuntary reaction to fear. A chemical reaction in the body causes the opossum to enter a stiffened, death-like state in which it may also drool. The effect of the chemical reaction must wear off on its own.

Breeding season extends from January to July and usually two litters are produced. Litters may contain anywhere from 5 to 21 honeybee sized young who will crawl inside the mother’s pouch where they will attach themselves to teats (there are seldom more than 13 teats). The teats will then swell inside their mouths, holding them in place while they nurse and continue to develop for another 50 to 65 days. Life span in the wild is from 2 – 7 yr. Opossums have the most teeth (50) of any North American land mammal. It is also the second most commonly harvested fur-bearing animal in Texas.

Updated: Aug 12, 2011