About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Do opossums hibernate during winter?

I usually see an opossum at night time but this one was coming out underneath my back deck in the morning. Is that normal? Clare, MI

The Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginian) is generally nocturnal, foraging throughout the night. But in the winter months many opossums change their foraging habits from night to day in order to try to take advantage of the warmer weather during sunlight hours.

What do opossums eat? Opossums are not picky eaters. Their normal diet consists of carrion, rodents, insects, frogs, and plants including fruits and grains. They do seem to have a particular fondness for cat food, however, especially the tinned varieties.

How big can an opossum get?
Most are about the size of a large house cat, from 15 to 20 inches long. They generally weigh 10 to 13 pounds.

Are opossums dangerous to pets? Opossums will sometimes eat small critters such as mice, reptiles, amphibians. They will leave larger animals alone and, in fact, are more likely to be harmed by a dog or full-grown cat than they are to inflict injury on them. They will rarely fight, despite putting up a fearsome display if threatened, and most likely will simply attempt to flee or play dead. The only animals that should avoid exposure to opossums are horses. Strange as that may sound, if these animals ingest opossum feces they are at high risk of contracting a deadly disease known as sarcocystosis.

Do opossums carry rabies? Unlike most wild animals, opossums are highly resistant to rabies.

What kinds of noises does an opossum make? Opossums are very quiet creatures. When threatened they often will hiss, like a cat, and can make a low growling sound.

How many babies does an opossum have in each litter? Opposums are marsuipial so mothers carry their young in pouches on their bellies after a 13 day pregnancy. At birth, newborn opossums are so tiny that an entire litter, consisting of 6 to 9 babies, can fit into a single teaspoon. They are so undeveloped that it's impossible for them to survive outside the mother's pouch.

How do I get rid of a bothersome opossum? It is generally not necessary because opossums are transient animal with a territory ranging from 10 to 50 acres. They usually stay in a particular area only a few days at a time and then move on. The best way to avoid being “bothered” by an opossum is simply to make sure no food is available to them. Don’t leave out pet food or table scraps and make sure your trash cans are fully closed. With no food available in your yard, they will simply go search elsewhere.

Do opossums hibernate during winter? Opossums do not hibernate. Their greatest challenge during winter, especially in colder climates, is simply to survive. It is not uncommon for opossums in northern regions to suffer frostbite during extremely cold periods. Their tails are particularly susceptible to frostbite as they have no fur covering to protect them.

These questions were answered by http://opossum.craton.net/


JosephAlsarraf said...

The lowest temperature it gets during the winter is 30 degrees, is that too cold for the opossums and what can I do about it? : )

dbrook said...

Sadly no 30 degrees is not cold enough and it can sometimes get in the teens and negatives here and they are still out. Freaky looking things and scare the crap out of me when I have to go out at night and there is one on my back porch when I open the door...shiver.

Cranky Cat Collection said...

No need to freak out. They are the most passive, harmless things!

Anonymous said...

I have one outside that I feed every night and give fresh water. It occasionally skips a night but not often It is very docile and allows the neighbors cat to eat along side it . It likes grapes, birdseed, peanuts, watermelon,sometimes blackberries, blueberries and of course catfood. Not real keen on the veggies though. A friend has 2 pets that I absolutely love to hold..cute little boogers.

James Black said...

I have a family of four possums that eat alongside my 20 cats outside. They used to run when I came outside now they ignore me or rub against me for more food. The pups ran inside to where I feed the cats.I give up. The pups like to be held. The parents are 15lbs. No more babies, please.

Anonymous said...

I feed and water my possum too. She is a very gentle creature, and not to be feared. She is a new one, the others have stopped coming. We have skunks too, and the possums run as soon as the skunks come.