Opossum Fun Fact: Opossums are actually marsupials (pouched mammal) and are the only marsupials in Florida. They are most famously noted for reacting to threats by feigning death. This is the genesis of the term “playing possum”, which means pretending to be dead or injured with intent to deceive.
In Florida opossums begin to breed in January. The usual litter size in Florida is seven. Opossums are born in an embryonic state after a 13-day gestation. These tiny babies, about the size of a bee emerge from the birth canal and make their own way to the mother’s pouch where they attach their mouths to a nipple. In a little over 2 months, their eyes are open, they are covered in fur, and they are approximately the size of a large mouse. This is now when they will detach from the nipple and will crawl around on the mother’s fur as she rests. Also this is when some the babies will now ride on their mothers back (her pouch becomes too crowded due to the babies increase in size) by gripping her fur with their feet & mouth. For the babies, this time can be very stressful & dangerous, as they are at risk of falling off & getting left behind. In another 3 weeks, they will be too cumbersome for the mother to carry, so she will leave them in a den while she forages.
Around the 3 ¼ month mark is when the babies will be fully weaned, independent, and the mother will already have a new litter in her pouch. Opossums can grow to be about the size of a domestic housecat. Opossums are known as opportunistic, omnivorous feeders, meaning they will eat just about including but not limited to: eggs, chickens, insects, grass, fruit, pet food, garbage, and even carrion that is decaying or rotting (animals that are already dead) .
Opossums are nocturnal animals, and when the sun goes down they will be on the move. Your personal residences tends to offer the three characteristics of a living space that an opossum in seeking : safety from predators, a comfortable climate and close to a steady food source.
If they seek refuge in or under your home, this can pose for some health hazards. Opossums will not only move in, they will use your living quarters to store its food, and with being omnivorous that could mean the rotting corpse of another animal. They will also urinate & defecate in the dwelling attracting parasites and creating breeding grounds for bacteria. Opossums carry diseases such as leptospirosis, tuberculosis, relapsing fever, tularemia, spotted fever, toxoplasmosis, coccidiosis, trichomoniasis, and Chagas disease. They also carry a variety of parasitic creatures such as fleas, ticks, mites, and lice which are easily transmittable to humans and our pets. Although they are generally not aggressive, they are still wild animals which make them unpredictable, especially when threatened.
Having more than any other mammal on land, adorning the mouth of the opossum are 50 very sharp teeth, which can deliver a pretty painful bite. The chance of contracting rabies from an opossum is RARE. This may be due to the opossum’s low body temperature (94-97º F) making it difficult for the virus to survive in the animal’s body. However the handling of a wild animal by any persons who is not properly certified and trained is highly discouraged and not recommended.