Didelphis virginiana

Author: Nessie O'Neil

Meet the Virginia Opossum

Virginia Opossum Classification

Class: Mammalia

Order: Didelphimorphia

Family: Didelphidae

Genus and Species: Didelphis virginiana

A photo of a virginia opossum

Awesome 'Possum Facts

A photo of a virginia opossum

Least Concern

4-12 lbs

2 years in the wild

4 years in captivity

Virginia Opossums are traditionally found across the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, all throughout Mexico, and up to Ontario in Canada. The Virginia Opossum has since been introduced to California, and British Columbia in Canada. 

Virginia Opossums are true omnivores, meaning they will eat almost anything. In the wild, some of the things Opossums can be found dining on are rodents, bugs, birds and eggs, as well as fruits and vegetables. In areas with a dense human population, the Virginia opossum enjoys things left out by humans like cat and dog food as well. Opossums are also known to scavenge for dead animals to eat. 

The Only Marsupial in The United States

Although most people probably think of Australia when they think of marsupials, the United States is lucky enough to have a marsupial species of their own! The Virginia Opossum is the northernmost marsupial in the world, and the only marsupial living north of Mexico. 

Virginia Opossums are nocturnal animals that are about the size of a domestic cat, and have hairless prehensile tails that assist them in grabbing tree branches while climbing. While Virginia opossums have the most teeth of any land mammal in North America, they have incredibly small brains. An opossum’s brain is only 1/5th as big as a raccoon’s.

One of the Virginia opossum’s most notable traits is its ability to “play possum.” When experiencing extreme fear, Opossums will play dead as a defense mechanism. Their heartrate will slow by half, and their breathing will become very shallow. To further sell their performance, Opossums will release a foul smelling odor that smells like death. 
When looking for a mate, male opossums attract females by making a sound that sounds similar to an animal training clicker. Female Virginia opossums give birth after only 11 to 13 days! The baby opossums then spend the next two and a half months in their mother’s pouch in order to finish developing. The opossums stay with their mother for another 2 months or so before heading out on their own. 


Opossums as Pets

Keeping a pet opossum can make you feel like Snow White, or it can make you want to pull out all of your hair, depending on how prepared you are. Opossums are not domestic animals, and thus have unique needs compared to other pets. If you are interested in learning about what it takes to love and share your life with a pet opossum, just keep reading along. 

Our Opossums

A photo of a pet opossum sitting on a black and white rug


More Marsupials

Love exotic pets? Don’t miss out!

Sign up for our news letter today!