(c) Messinger Woods Wildlife Care and Education Center

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General Information About Opossums

  • Are North America's only marsupial (pouch carrying animals)

  • Are omnivores (They eat just about anything)

  • Are small to medium size and usually move slowly

  • Are white to whitish gray with coarse fur

  • Have a long, naked prehensile (hand-like) tail, and a pointed snout (It is easy to confuse a juvenile for a rat.)

  • Their ears, tail and feet are usually black and pink colored

  • They have opposable thumbs which make them excellent climbers

  • Adults weigh between 4 to 15 pounds

  • Are polygamous and breed at about 1 year of age

  • Babies "swim" through mother's fur to pouch and "lock" themselves to a nipple.

  • Opossums carry leaves and twigs entwined in their tails to build a nest.

Mother Found Dead/Hit by Car

Because they are omnivores, opossums are known to scavenge dead animals in the road. Unfortunately, because of this, many of them are struck by vehicles and are often found dead in the road themselves. A passerby may notice the stomach area of a mother moving about or a few young ones still hanging around the dead body. Since opossums are marsupials, the babies live in the pouch until they are old enough to climb up onto the mothers back. If the mothers' belly is "rippling" or babies are suspected, roll the mother over onto her back (if necessary) and check the pouch. Many babies can survive through this type of incident due to the protection received from the body of their mother. It is best to wear plastic gloves or wash thoroughly when finished handling dead animals and/or retrieving the babies. When attempting to remove babies from a mother's pouch, be aware that they may be difficult to "pull" off. Regardless, you should gently but firmly do so. If you are squeamish or afraid to do this, use a shovel and put the carcass into a sturdy cardboard box for transport to a Wildlife Rehabilitator. If older babies are "loose" from riding on the mom's back, catch them with gloves or a heavy towel, blanket or fine meshed net. Baby opossums will also hiss nastily and make a "sneezing" type sound when they are scared.  This is normal.