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The

National Opossum Society

welcomes you to the world of the Virginia opossum!

If you are visiting us because you have found orphans, or an injured opossum, please see our ORPHAN PAGE.

BABY


Information for Rehabilitators
The Importance of Proper Diet
Finding a Veterinarian to Help
Quick Opossum Facts
Natural History of the Opossum
Discouraging Opossum Visitors
Opossums As Pets??

Join the Society
Searchable Index for your Membership Packet!
Positions of the National Opossum Society

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A Short Quiz ...


  What animal goes on a honeymoon, and 13 days later gives birth?

  It lived during the age of dinosaurs: fossil remains have been found from 70 million years ago.

  It can eat almost anything.

It loves to eat insects (beetles, cockroaches, and so forth).
It eats snails and slugs.
It catches and eats roof rats.
It also eats cat food, dog food, people food.
  It has thumbs on its hind feet!

  It is very quiet, although it can make some sounds.

  Learning and discrimination tests rank it above dogs, and more on the level of pigs.

Give Up? More clues...

  It does not have a territory, but is always on the move, going to wherever the food is. Females stay in a smaller area while they care for their young.

  It puts up a terrific bluff if cornered and can give the appearance of being really good at defending itself. NOTE: it is not good at defending itself!

Big Clue!

  If attacked and unable to fight or run from danger, it collapses and appears to be dead!

An Opossum? That's right!

Females have litters up to twice a year (the father always skips town!). Babies, typically 5 to 8 in a litter are ready to leave mommy's pouch and walk around out on their own by 4 months of age. That's when they are 7 to 9 inches, nose to rump, and weigh about 10 to 16 ounces.

But 'possum life is rough! Very few survive to become adults. The few that make it are eager to have their own love affairs and repeat Nature's cycle.

Nature is very efficient. If an area will support them (has their favorite foods, water, and appropriate shelter) more opossums survive. If times are hard, fewer will make it.

If a lot of opossums are killed by predators (they have lots of predators- man is one of the biggest) there is more food for those that remain. Then these little furries will reproduce more successfully until they get back to their optimum number; or others will move in to fill the void (or niche) their absence creates. They can be replaced by opossums from outside the area, by rats, skunks cats, crows, raccoons, coyotes, etc.

Fortunately opossums are hardy little animals-; they have to be!

In general they present a far lower health risk to humans than do dogs and cats! They seem to have a naturally high level of immunity to most diseases. Example? Opossums are more resistant to rabies than any other mammal; cattle, goats, dogs, cats, sheep, and the ice cream man are far more susceptible to rabies!



Admittedly, opossums do carry fleas (as do all wild and some domestic animals). And the opossum may bite you if you are foolhardy enough to grab one; after all, they are wild animals.

But they help to maintain a clean and healthy environment. They eat all types of insects, including cockroaches, crickets, beetles, etcetera. They catch and eat rats, roof rats, mice, and they consume dead animals of all types (carrion). They like over-ripe fruit, berries, and grapes. And they think snails and slugs are a delicacy! Nature's little Sanitation Engineers!!

Typically they go about their quiet task late at night, and you usually won't know they were around...unless your dog (being territorial) starts barking, or you happen to take a midnight stroll when one is munching insects or snails in your yard.

What to do if you encounter an opossum...
nothing!

Just watch an enjoy one of Nature's beneficial wildlife species. If you must do something, try counting the thumbs on your feet...

If one has chosen your your garage, attic, or other structure, as its temporary quarters, you may not want it there! There are relatively simple and non-lethal means to get them to leave for more suitable spots in your area.

In the meantime, and BEFORE you have a visitor to those structures, pick up pet food at night, keep lids on garbage cans, and close potential entrance points. You can still enjoy opossums as they wander through your yard, eliminating its various pests as they go through their nightly excursions.

home orphans diet vet facts rehab positions membership

What is the COST of Killing Opossums or Removing them from an Urban Environment?
In terms of the environment, the cost is ... In terms of tax dollars, the cost is...

We must:
SMELL THE ROSES
home orphans diet vet facts rehab positions membership
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Benefits of Membership in the National Opossum Society
  • An expansive initial membership packet containing all past through present known health, diet, and medical information.
  • Periodic newsletter, from which members copy articles and add to the initial information packet to keep it current and usable.
  • Access to the best source of on-going and new knowledge concerning proper care of the opossum. Information from veterinarians and other recognized experts concerning: wild infants through adults and captive/ long term non-releasables.
  • Orphan Care Information-; "tinies" through release. We believe that only individuals working under direct supervision of experienced orphan care-givers should have charge of these little souls. Their fragile lives are too easily lost by many well-meaning but novice care-givers.

Membership is available for $25/year. Orphan care information is available in a separate handbook at an additional cost of $10.

We have a membership application form online!

Our principles and goals are:
  • Serve as a nationwide resource for current and correct diet, medical, and general knowledge of opossums.
  • Educate ourselves and share knowledge with others on all aspects of the proper care of opossums.
  • Educate the public concerning the benefits of the opossum in the environment.
  • Work with all agencies to improve management and handling of opossums in the environment
For more information than is contained in these pages, please write:
National Opossum Society
Post Office Box 21197
Catonsville, MD 21228

Drawings and photographs on these Pages are copyrighted! Other materials may be copied for personal use, but may not be sold. Reference must be attached to articles, and their content unaltered. Please write to us for permission to reprint articles, electronically or in print.


The National Opossum Society is an all-volunteer not-for-profit, tax-exempt charity, founded December 5, 1986.
The National Opossum Society and the Opossum Society of the United States, while both founded by Dr. Henness, are separate groups. This Web Site is for the group most recently led by the late Dr. Henness, the National Opossum Society.

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Thank you for visiting our Web Site. We hope you will visit again soon.

REMEMBER!!! If you need immediate help with orphaned or injured opossums, please visit Orphan Care or call our advisors.

TRACKS

A Word on Opossums in Research Facilities


The National Opossum Society exists for the benefit and improvement in care of the Didelphis genus, particularly Didelphis virginiana and Didelphis marsupialis.

Within institutions such as universities where opossums are kept captive for research projects of questionable value, they are rarely given the most basic care they require to live healthy lives. Their habitat requirements are not met at all in "pure" research. Wildlife experiences extreme stress under these circumstances, and thus are not going to remain healthy for long.

The National Opossum Society supports clinical research that strives to improve the health of the Didelphis genus or the individual opossum. Other research that intends to extrapolate data to benefit another species is not endorsed or supported in any way.

home orphans diet vet facts rehab positions membership

NATIONAL OPOSSUM SOCIETY PHOTOGRAPHS, GRAPHICS, DRAWINGS, AND ARTICLES ARE COPYRIGHTED. READERS ARE WELCOME TO COPY OUR LITERATURE FOR THEIR INDIVIDUAL USE, BUT MAY NOT SELL IT. REFERENCE MUST BE ATTACHED TO ARTICLES AND THEIR CONTENT UNALTERED. PLEASE WRITE TO US FOR PERMISSION TO REPRINT ARTICLES IN OTHER PUBLICATIONS, INCLUDING ELECTRONIC ONES. WE RARELY REFUSE PERMISSION; BUT DUE TO POTENTIAL COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT ISSUES, WE MUST HAVE A SPECIFIC AND WRITTEN REQUEST. WE RESERVE EXCLUSIVE AND ABSOLUTE RIGHTS OVER ALL USE AND SALES OF OUR DRAWINGS, LITERATURE, PRODUCTS, ETC, SINCE 1986.

ATTENTION WEBMASTERS! YOU MAY LINK TO THIS PAGE. YOU MAY NOT COPY ANY PART OF THIS PAGE IN PRINTED OR WEB PAGE FORMAT WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM N.O.S. PLEASE DO NOT COPY OUR COUNSELOR'S PHONE NUMBERS ONTO YOUR WEB PAGE. IF YOU WANT US TO HELP ORPHANS, THEN PLEASE DIRECT YOUR VISITORS HERE, WHERE THE MOST CURRENT COUNSELOR INORMATION IS LISTED!

COPYRIGHT VIOLATIONS WILL NO LONGER BE TOLERATED.
Copyright © 1997-2013 National Opossum Society

Photo Credits: Paula Arms, Steve Finney, Mindy Washington

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