National Opossum Society
welcomes you to the world of the Virginia opossum!
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 is very quiet, although it can make some sounds.
Learning and discrimination tests rank it above dogs, and more on the level of pigs.
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!
If attacked and unable to fight or run from danger, it collapses and appears to be dead!
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.
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.
Just watch and enjoy one of Nature's beneficial wildlife species. If you
must do something, try counting the thumbs on
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.
Benefits of Membership in the National Opossum Society
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:
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.
Thank you for visiting our Web Site. We hope you will visit again soon.
A Word on Opossums in Research Facilities
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.