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Pest Information

Opossums

Opossums

  • Latin Name: Didelphis virginiana
  • Common Name: Opossums
  • Other Names: Possum, Virginia opossum

Pest Details

Opossums
Opossums
Opossums

Origin:

The opossum is a native of eastern North America, but was introduced to the west coast and now occurs from Washington to southern California as well as in the entire eastern half of the U.S., south throughout much of Mexico, and north along western Mexico into Arizona.

Biology:

The opossum is the only native marsupial in North America, distinguished by an external pouch that the newborn, tiny, blind babies crawl into following their birth. A litter averages about 7 young and they attach themselves to nipples in the pouch and remain there for the next 8 weeks. In this respect they are related to the kangaroos of Australia. Mating occurs from January to July with 2 litters per year produced. In nature the average life expectancy is less than 3 years due to high mortality while young. These animals are strong omnivores, feeding on virtually any fruits, vegetables, snails, eggs, insects, meat from road kills, small rodents, and other plant materials. Around structures they will raid garbage cans for leftover foods and find pet foods left out at night. When entry to garages is available they will enter to look for stored foods or pet foods. They are excellent climbers and readily climb trees to escape danger, but when threatened on the ground they may “play possum” by suddenly falling onto their side or back and remaining motionless with their tongue hanging out. They are known to carry a large number of pathogens and parasites that can affect humans.

Identification:

The opossum is a highly recognized animal. It is usually less than 3 feet long from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail, and the tail is without hairs, long and pointed, and is prehensile, allowing the animal to use the tail for gripping while climbing. The overall color of the fur is gray, often with dark patches around the legs, and the face is light gray with a pink nose.

Characteristicts Important to Control:

It is important to check with your state wildlife agency to determine the legal status of opossum and any constraints on their control. Many states classify them as non-game animals that may be controlled at any time in any legal manner. Shooting is a common practice. Trapping is highly successful but trapped animals generally cannot be relocated and released due to the likelihood that they will cause problems in their new location. Working with a local animal control agency regarding the disposal of trapped opossum is advisable. Where the animal is trapped within or under a structure they may be released on site outdoors and all entry points permanently closed. Exclusion is an important part of opossum management, along with repairing fences to prohibit access to yards and removal of pet foods at night.

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