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Opossums are a member of the order Marsupialia, a primitive group of mammals found most commonly in Australia. Kangaroos, koalas, and wombats are other well known Marsupials.

American Opossum
An adult opossum is 2-3 feet long and weighs between 4 and 12 pounds. It has an elongated snout, a pink nose, black eyes, and prominent, naked black ears. Its head is usually white and its coarse body fur is mostly grayish white but tends to be darker on its legs.

An opossum is well-adapted for climbing. Its feet are plantigrade (shaped so the opossum walks of the sole of its foot with the heel touching the ground) and its toes are dexterous (skillful, like fingers). Its hind feet have a toe that resembles a thumb and makes them look somewhat like human hands. Its naked, scaly tail is able to wrap around and grasp limbs and can support the animal's full weight for short periods.The opossum's skull has 50 teeth, the highest number found in any mammal.


An opossum is primarily nocturnal (active at night) but may become diurnal (active during daylight hours) during cold weather. An adult male's home range is about 250 acres and tends to shift through the course of its life, while the adult female's home range is smaller, about 125 acres, and is more permanent. An adult male is solitary, while an adult female is with her young through most of the year. The young of the first litter begin living on their own away from the nest when they are three months old, but second-litter young stay with the mother until the following spring. Litter-mates may share common dens for up to three months after separation from their mother. A opossum does not hibernate, but remains inactive for short periods during severe winter weather. However, its energy reserves are not as extensive as those of a raccoon, so it must forage on a regular basis, even during extreme weather conditions.

An opossum is a very slow runner and will try to escape predators by climbing the nearest tree. When cornered on the ground, it initially exhibits a threatening posture, hissing, and making low growls. If attacked, it generally lies very still as if paralyzed or dead, a habit called playing possum. It also emits a foul smelling substance when threatened.