The Virginia opossum is a very misunderstood species. It is the only marsupial in North America and has been around for over 50 million years. Opossums are nocturnal and solitary. They eat just about anything, from fruit to small animals to carrion to garbage. They give birth to litters of eight or nine on average. These young are born very underdeveloped and must crawl from the birth canal to the mother’s abdominal pouch. In the pouch are thirteen nipples assembled in a bullseye. The babies attach themselves to the nipple. They remain in the pouch for two months as they continue to grow. Once they’re too big for the pouch, the young cling onto their mother’s back. Opossums don’t have much of a defense system so when under threat, they “play possum”: basically giving the appearance that they are dead. They’ll lie motionless with their mouth open. It is extremely rare for an opossum to contract rabies. If you see one hissing and drooling at the mouth, it is most likely just trying to scare you off.
If you find a sick or injured opossum, contact us at 202-881-1000.
If you find a lone baby opossum, check to see how big it is. If the baby is greater than 7 inches long (not including the tail), it is fine to be on its own; however, if it is shorter than 7 inches, please contact us 202-881-1000.
Virginia opossums are a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in DC.