The Common Opossum

By Nora Roth, Kid Naturalist, age 9

The species that many people think of when hearing opossum is really the common opossum, also known as the Virginia Opossum. However, there are two different species. Both species have a cone-shaped nose with a pink tip, hairless tail (like a rat or mouse), and white, gray, or black fur.

Opossums are the only marsupial (animals that carry babies in a pouch) found naturally in North America. Opossums are about the size of a small dog. They are nocturnal, which means they are active at night and sleeping or hiding during the day. They spend most of their time at night searching for food. They are omnivores and eat both vegetarian and meat.

So the next time you are outside at night keep your eyes open and start looking for one in your neighborhood.

Fun Facts

  • When injured or threatened, they play dead (play possum) and omit a smell to repel the threat.
  • They have a prehensile tail that they can use to help climb trees.
  • They have opposable thumbs on their back legs.
  • No other mammal can vary in size more than the Virginian opossum depending on the region they live in.