14 Facts About America’s Sole Marsupial, the Opossum

When you think of opossums, what do you think of? Pests, roadkill, giant rats? These interesting creatures are actually pretty cool.

1. There are many species of opossums, but there is only one that you can find in the U.S. and Canada — the Virginia opossum.

2. The name “opossum” comes from an Algonquian word meaning “white animal.”

3. Opossums are marsupials, like kangaroos and koalas, and are also known as pouched mammals.

4. In fact, opossums are the only marsupial that you can find in the U.S. and Canada.

5. Mother opossums can give birth to up to 20 babies, which are around the size of honeybees.

6. The babies that make it to her pouch (some don’t) will nurse, grow and continue to develop.

7. When they get older, they climb in and out of her pouch, often hitching a ride on her back as they hunt for food.

8. Opossums are scavengers, which means they get into your trash, pet food or dumpsters. They also chow down on roadkill.

9. As omnivores, they also eat grass, nuts, fruit, mice, worms, snakes and insects.

10.”Playing possum” is really a thing. When threatened, they play dead by flopping over on their sides, sometimes even with their tongue hanging out. When the predator loses interest, they make their escape. This is not an intentional act of deception, though — it’s an automatic reflex cause by intense fear.

11. Their long, thick, hairless tails are prehensile, and used for leverage. They cannot, however, hang from their tails.

12. Opossums have quite the collection of teeth — they have 50 in all, which is more than any other North American mammal.

13. Even though they are associated with garbage and carrion, the opossum is actually a clean, meticulous animal.

14. In the wild, opossums only live for around two years, and in captivity, they only live for around four.