Interesting Facts About Opossums for Kids
Opossums are lovely natural animals that one can find throughout North and South America. He is a voracious eater who hisses when confronted by an intruder or when threatened by another creature. More interestingly, it frequently ‘plays dead,’ sometimes for hours at a period, to resist an attack (remember Crash and Eddie from the movie Ice Age?).
Opossum Lifespan & Appearance
Opossums are frequently misunderstood as they are excellent companions. They are docile, unlikely to harm pets or spread disease and contribute to pest population management. Rather than shooing them away, allow them to remain, and they will help you get rid of ticks, dangerous snakes, and discarded birdseed, among other things. Among the species that may visit your backyard, opossums are one of the most beneficial.
- Opossums have a two-year lifetime. A wild opossum may survive as little as a year, although captivity-raised opossums can live up to four years.
- Opossums are nearly as large as pet cats. Male opossums are slightly larger than female opossums, but the difference is so tiny that the animal almost completely lacks sexual differentiation.
- Opossums have a total of 50 teeth. Males typically have more prominent canines than females.
- The animal’s front and hind feet both have opposable thumbs. The thumb enables the animal to grasp tree branches and food easily.
- Male and female opossums are around 2.5ft (76cm) in length from head to tail. Weight ranges between 8.8 and 13.2 lb (4 to 6kg).
Opossum Lifestyle & Habits
Opossums can are found in forests, woodlands, and in the vicinity of farms. They prefer to live in regions where there are rivers or streams nearby. People sometimes consider them to be pests because they get into waste or devour vegetables from the garden. They are, however, powerless to prevent it. They do not have access to a grocery store, like we do, to purchase food. Here are some things about the lifecycle of opossum:
- Opossums are well-known for their ability to fool people into thinking they are dead. When confronted by a predator or any other large animal, opossums will fall to their side and lie on the ground, their eyes locked and wide open. To complete the look of a dead animal, they may sometimes lengthen their tongues.
- As long as the threat is present, an opossum’s behavior can be extremely discrete and motionless. An opossum may pretend to be dead for several hours to elude a predator.
- As a response to stress, the animal’s brain automatically sends the body into a comatose state. Since it is a programmed response to a stressful environment, opossums have little discretion over when they choose to play dead and become a ‘playing possum.’
- Young opossums are not skilled at pretending to be dead, and as a result, when confronted by a predator, they will usually hiss and snarl.
- When an opossum pretends to be dead, the anal glands (glands next to the anus) release a foul-smelling material that attracts predators. It contributes to the perception that the animal has died.
- In the wild, an opossum is an arboreal species that spends most of its time on the branches of trees. Opossums living close to metropolitan areas may spend a significant amount of time on the ground due to the abundance of scraps and other abandoned food on the ground.
- Opossums have a prehensile tail that may be curled around a short branch, allowing the animal to suspend its entire body from the branch. Rather than sleeping while suspended on their tail, opossums use the tail as an extra hand to grasp objects.
- Like how cats clean and groom their fur, an opossum cleans and grooms its fur with its tongue. Leaving saliva on their fur also helps them to stay calm throughout the hotter months of the year.
- Obsessive-compulsive nocturnal hunters; opossums are active at night. It is because of the enormous pupils that they can see better in the dark.
- Opossums are very resistant to the rabies virus, and it is pretty rare to come across an opossum that has been infected with the virus. In addition, the animal’s low body temperature makes it impossible for the virus to reproduce, thereby protecting it against the sickness.
- Opossums are immune to the venom of the snakes that live in the same habitat as the opossum and are endemic to that area.
Reproduction of Opossum
- In a typical litter of opossums, there are approximately 20 young. The survival percentage of the trash, on the other hand, is frequently less than 50 percent.
- The female has only 13 teats in her pouch, which is relatively small. As a result, only the first 13 people to reach the bag survive, with the rest perishing. It explains why the litter has such a low survival rate.
- When compared to Virginia opossums, common opossums have fewer pups each litter than the latter. Each species has one to three litters per year, depending on the species.
- Joeys are the name given to baby opossums, similar to the term given to the offspring of a kangaroo.
- Female opossums are frequently observed carrying their young on their backs. A female opossum can have as many as ten kids on her back at any given time.
- Opossum babies are tiny, measuring barely more than the size of a honey bee. The infants crawl through the mother’s fur and into a pouch on her belly, where they are protected. They grow as they suck on breast milk through the nipples on the inside of the pouch.
- The pouch of a baby opossum is their primary source of nutrition for approximately three months, following which they spend the majority of their time outside it. They begin eating the same foods that their mother consumes. When they can search for food on their own, they leave to explore new locations.
After getting to know all that miscellaneous information about them, you must be curious – “what do possums eat?” Although opossums are not hostile, they are opportunistic and resourceful creatures who eat whatever they can find and seek shelter wherever they can – including your home.
- An opossum can chase snakes for food, even dangerous ones, if it needs to survive.
- Obsessive-compulsive omnivores, which implies they consume both plants and animals in their diet.
- If you keep opossums in captivity, you can supplement their diet with a dog or cat chow. The fact that opossums, like humans, are omnivores means that it is exceptionally usual to witness caged opossums consuming the same foods that their human caregivers ingest.
- Small rodents, eggs, insects, snails, slugs, frogs, fruits, and vegetables are the most common food sources for opossums and other small animals in the wild.
- Opossums are opportunistic eaters who take advantage of every situation. As a result, they make excellent scavengers. If an opossum happens to come across a carcass, it will devour it! However, because of their propensity to scavenge, they are an essential component of the ecology.
The answer to basic questions such as ‘where do opossums live?’ can be found below:
- Obsessed with human settlements, opossums frequently eat on rubbish. This tendency has led some to label opossums as pests. On the other hand, these animals prey on rodents and other animals that humans perceive to be pests, so they are typically left alone in their natural environment.
- Opossums tend to favor moist, temperate environments with a moderate level of precipitation.
- As a result of their constant foraging, opossums frequently relocate from one location to another. Once they have drained their food supply, they may choose to stay in one spot for an extended period before moving on.
- Tree cavities are a common location for opossum nesting. They may also use bird nests or caves that have been left abandoned by other animals, such as other opossums, to make their homes. Once she is about to give birth or has already given birth to a litter of offspring, the female opossum will line the nest with grass and leaves.
- Besides opossums, the United States is home to no other marsupial animals.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the opossum population as “Least Concern,” which indicates that the animal has a healthy and sustainable population.
Other Fun Facts About Opossums for Children
The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial that can be found in the United States. Also, in northern places, opossums frequently have abnormally short tails caused by frostbite at the ends of their tails.
If these interesting facts have grabbed your attention, here are some more opossum facts for preschoolers and children:
- According to a study undertaken by a University of Florida professor, the presence of opossums may be traced back to the time of the dinosaur extinction.
- The term “possum” refers to a classification of marsupials that live in Australia, New Guinea, and Sulawesi. However, many people in North America refer to native opossums as “possums.”
- When frightened, opossums hiss, belch, and even pee or poop on the ground. They will occasionally pretend to be dead. They can remain motionless for hours at a time, and even their respiration slows down.
- Opossums are active at night. They are on the lookout for hunting and foodways at night. When the sun is shining brightly, they can be found hiding in old tree stumps or burrows.
- Opossums can have as many as 25 babies at a time, depending on their size. The infants are around the size of a tiny bean in size. Babies spend the first two months of their lives hiding in their mother’s pouch. After that, they continue to ride on their mother’s back for another month.
- The presence of a prehensile tail distinguishes opossums. This indicates that it can grasp branches. Opossums can hang upside down by their tails for a short period, but they cannot sleep in this position.
When opossums come into contact with humans, they are not typically violent. Moreover, they do not carry or transmit diseases to humans, making it safer to be close to them. People may harm an animal without a good reason in the future. However, these instances are rare. In urban areas, humans may even run over animals with their automobiles. Although they have a large population, opossums are an essential element of the ecology. Their scavenging abilities make them nature’s cleaner, and they must be protected from endangerment to maintain their ecological function.