Opossums (also called ‘possums) usually come to our attention when they raid garbage cans or dig out a den under the deck. In addition to garbage, opossums feed on insects, carrion, fruits, and grain including bird seed, pet food, and small animals like voles, shrews, and toads.
Young are born mostly in spring but aren’t seen for awhile since they climb into their mother’s pouch to complete development. After several weeks, the young emerge from the pouch and may be seen riding on the mother’s back. A fully-grown adult opossum can be up to 14 pounds and 15-20 inches long.
Opossums are nocturnal, solitary, and nomadic, ranging over an area of 10 to 50 acres. They don’t have one main den. Instead, they will den in a different place each night, except during the cold of winter when they may den in one place for days at a time. Opossums find shelter under buildings, porches, or decks, in brush piles, in hollow logs, in old squirrel nests, or they may share space with woodchucks, skunks, or rabbits. Occasionally an opossum will den in an attic or garage.
Although opossums can carry rabies, a hissing or drooling opossum is not necessarily rabid. A threatened opossum’s natural response is to bare its teeth, hiss, drool, bite, or leak smelly fecal fluid! They sometimes play dead to confuse predators.