What kind of animal is an opossum? Where do they live, and what do they eat? What are their life cycles like? This lesson will teach you lots of facts about opossums!

Marvelous Marsupials

Opossums are a special kind of animal called a marsupial. Marsupials are animals that carry their babies in a pouch! Famous marsupials are animals like koalas and kangaroos. Opossums are the only marsupials that live in North America.

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You have probably seen an opossum out and about before. They look like big rats!

Opossums can be white, brown, or gray.
opossum

They have long, skinny tails with no fur and pointed noses and are about two-and-a-half feet long from the tip of their noses to the end of their tails. Their tails can be used as a fifth hand and helps opossums hold on to branches and climb. They can have white, brown, or gray fur, and weigh about 13 pounds. That’s about as much as a cat!

Opossum Habitats

Have you ever wondered where opossums live? Opossums can live in grassy areas and in forests, so that’s why you might see them around your neighborhood or in the road. They also can live in hollow rocks or logs.

But be on the lookout for them at night! Opossums are nocturnal, which means that they sleep during the day and are out and about during the nighttime!

Opossum Diets

Opossums are omnivores. This means that they eat both plants and animals. What kind of animals do they eat? Small animals like snails, rodents and insects. They also like to munch on berries that they find in the forest.

This opossum is eating grapes!
opossum

They also like to eat garbage and dead animals that they find on the ground – gross! They are great climbers and climb trees to search for their food. Opossums have a cute way of eating: they hold their food with their front paws, just like a squirrel or a chipmunk! They also have 50 teeth that they use to chomp on their food!

Opossum Life Cycles

Did you know that opossums can have as many as five to eight babies at one time? That’s a full pouch for the mother opossum, who carries her babies around in her pouch for about two months. The babies are very small when they are first born, about the size of a honeybee! After they come out of the pouch, young opossums ride around on their mothers’ backs for awhile to learn how to find food.

Baby opossums ride on the backs of their mothers after they leave her pouch.
opossum

Opossums don’t live very long – they usually live to be about two years old in the wild. You often see them on the road because they have been hit by cars, so cars and humans are some of their biggest predators.

Sometimes they are just pretending, though! Did you know that opossums like to pretend to be dead to avoid predators? If you’ve ever heard someone say that they were playing possum, that’s where the phrase comes from!

Lesson Summary

Opossums are marsupials that carry their babies around in a pouch. They live in North America and are nocturnal, so they are up at night. They are omnivores that eat berries and small animals like snails, rodents and insects.