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Virginia opossum

(Didelphis virginiana virginiana)


This native species is a marsupial about the size of a housecat, but with shorter legs, large naked ears, and a long prehensile tail. It has long white hairs over black-tipped underfur which gives it a grizzled appearance. The face is white with a pink nose and black eyes. On average, this species ways 9-13 pounds. The average length in Virginia is 678 mm not including the 296 mm tail. The female has an abdominal pouch (marsupium) that contains 9-14 teats. The opossum has 50 teeth which is more than any other Virginia mammal. This species usually has 2 litters of 6-13 young per year. It breeds from January up to October and the young are born after a 13 day pregnancy , when they crawl from the birth canal into the pouch. This species is weaned at about 100 to 110 days, when the female begins ceasing maternal care and the young disperse. This is a solitary species, and in the face of a strong threat, catatonia or ‘playing possum’ often occurs. This species is nocturnal and usually makes a leaf nest in a log, tree or cliff, but may use a woodchuck or skunk burrow


This species is found in all Virginia counties. It lives in wooded areas near streams, lakes and in swamps. It uses many types of habitat, from residential to forest, but prefers forests, and open woods with small streams.


This species is omnivorous, eating seasonally abundant food including fruit, grain, plant parts, and carrion. Sometimes it will eat its young.