Range: The Opossums is an animal that is found mainly in forests throughout the U.S., Mexico, and Costa Rica.
Size: Length from nose to tail, 2.5 ft (76 cm)
Weight: It is weighing 8.8 to 13.2 lb (4 to 6 kg)
Diet: They are omnivorous. Besides eating horrible food like dead animals, opossums eat over-ripe fruit, vegetables, grasses, berries, and leaves. They can also eat snakes, birds, frogs, ground eggs, slugs, moles, snail, and garbage.
Average life span: The life period of an opossum is the shortest for mammals of this size. They normally live 2 – 4 years. The majority are killed by predators and cars.
Habitat: Opossums were initially inhabitant of the eastern U.S. During the Great Depression, they were brought in to the western region.
Breeding/Reproduction: Opossums can produce 1-2 litters in a year. The gestation period is very short around12-14 days). When the babies are born, they will get their way to the pouch and join to a teat. At around 3 months, they leave the pouch. Around another 2 months, the mother carries her young on her back when away from the den.
Opossums look like a full-size rat; they are related to the kangaroo and koala. The opossum (also called possum) is the only marsupial (female with a pouch) in North America. They are about the size of a cat, have black to gray fur, and long, pointed noses (pink in color).
Opossums have several teeth, more than several other land mammals, and a prehensile tail that can grasp or hold. Their tail provides help to stabilize them as they climb but they can not used to hang from trees.
Opossums are active during night. They are a non-aggressive animals and avoid confrontations. They are non-destructive. In fact, opossums benefit the environment by keeping it clean and healthy.
Opossums (Didelphimorphia) also known as Possums, has more than 103 species in 19 genera. This makes them the largest order of Marsupials in the Western Hemisphere. The word opossum comes from the Proto-Algonquian “aposoum” meaning white dog or white beast or animal. They are usually small to medium sized marsupials. The smallest can be compared to the size of a small mouse while the largest opossums just exceeds roughly on the size of a large house cat. Mostly they have long snouts, narrow braincase and a prominent crest. Their dental features consist of small incisors, canine are large and the molars are tricuspid. Like some new world monkeys the opossums have prehensile tails. But their semi-prehensile tail is not strong to support an adult opossum’s weight. Instead they used this tail as a brace or an aid when climbing. Their fur consists of awn hair only. Female opossums have a pouch. During birth the young could crawl into the mother’s pouch where they will proceed to develop their body. This female opossums can give birth to a very large numbers of babies but few of them survive. Some never even make it as far as the pouch. Opossums are mostly solitary and nomadic. They will stay in one area where there is abundance of food and water. Opossums are nocturnal in nature. So they hunt food and do their activities during night time. They are omnivores which mean they eat plants and animals alike. Their main diet composed of carrion, insects, snakes, birds, frogs, slugs, earthworms. And even small mammals. They mostly fancy fruits such as avocados, apples, persimmons and Clementine. They are considered scavenger so you can see them near human settlements such as raiding garbage, dumpsters and spotted near road kill.
In times of a threat or harmed, they will “play possum” which means they will mimic the appearance and smell of a dead animals. Their lips are drawn back; saliva foams forms around the mouth, eyes are half to closed, teeth barred and their anal glands secretes a liquid that has foul smell. This ploy may put a possible predator off guard.
Opossums have 19 genera. First is the Caluromys which are commonly called woolly opossums. They can mostly be found in Central and South America. Second Genus is Caluromysiops consist of the Black-shouldered Opossum (Caluromysiops irrupta). They are visible in South America in Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia and Peru. Another genus is the Glironia comprised of the Bushy-tailed Opossum (Glironia venusta) which can be found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Their fully haired tail distinguished them from other opossums. One of the genus is Chacodelphys which consists of Chacoan Pygmy Opossum (Chacodelphys Formosa) tagged to be as the smallest known species of didelphid. Another one of the genus is Chironectes which composed of Yapok or Water Opossum (Chironectes minimus). They are semi aquatic in nature so they are mostly found in freshwater stream and lakes in Mexico, Central and South America. The Cryptonanus is one of the genuses which are endemic to South America such as Uruguay, eastern Brazil and Bolivia. Another one is the genus Didelphis commonly known as the large American Opossums. This genus is living mostly in Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Suriname, Brazil, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Uruguay and French Guiana Venezuela as well as in the United States, Canada as well as Mexico. One more genus is the Gracilinanus found in South America. The Hyladelphys which consist of Kalinowski’s Mouse Opossum (Hyladelphys kalinowskii) is another one of the genus found in Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, and Peru. One more genus is the Lestodelphys or the Patagonian Opossum (Lestodelphys halli) which is endemic to Argentina. Lutreolina is another genus which consists of the Thick-tailed Opossum (Lutreolina crassicaudata) which has from South America Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia and Guyana as their habitat. Another one is Genus Marmosa which has 19 species and is small neotropic members of the family Didelphidae. They are generally found in rainforests as they scavenge bromeliads for food. Another genus is Marmosops which are living mostly in South and Central America like Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Panama Trinidad and Tobago. Another genus is the Genus Metachirus or the Brown Four-eyed Opossum (Metachirus myosuros) which can be found in Central and South America from Nicaragua, northern Argentina and Paraguay. Also there is the Genus Monodelphis commonly referred as a short tail opossums. They are mostly seen throughout South America. Aside from above mentioned there is also the Genus Philander which is commonly known as gray and black four-eyed opossums. It can be found greatly in South America from Orinoco River delta region of Venezuela to Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia, Bolivia, southern Mexico, Peru and Argentina. Genus Thylamys is also one the genus of opossums which has round rather that pointed premaillae. Their female lacks a pouch unlike most opossums. Last is the Genus Tlacuatzin or the Greyish Mouse Opossum (Tlacuatzin canescens) which are endemic to Mexico. It can be greatly seen from Southern Sonora to Oaxaca and also in Islas Marías and in the central Yucatán Peninsula.
People are mostly a threat to the opossums due to widely hunting and being consumed by locals in some countries. In Mexico, their tail is eaten as believed to improved fertility. Also some will used the opossum’s oil as topical salves in remedy for arthritis. Others also used opossum’s pelts in fur trade. No wonder some species of opossums are declining in numbers or one like the Red-bellied Gracile Opossum (Cryptonanus ignitus), found in this specie from Jujuy Province, Argentina is considred extinct in 1962 since their habitat was been destroyed.