As the only marsupial animal to inhabit North America, the opossum often never lives to see adulthood. Frequently the victim of cars and wild animals, the opossum lives throughout the United States and Canada. Understanding the diet of an opossum can help keep them out of your trash, but can also come in handy if you come upon a hurt opossum and want to seek treatment.
There are over 60 types of opossums, but the most common is the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana). The opossum has a rat-like snout and beady black eyes with bushy gray fur. Opossums measure 2.5 feet from snout to tail and can weigh up to 13.2 pounds, making them roughly the size of a house cat. With the ability to give birth to up to 20 offspring at one time, the opossum carries its babies in the pouch until they are old enough to cling to the animal's back as it climbs through the trees. Opossums have one of the shortest lifespans of mammals, living only 2 to 4 years. Their short lifespan is due to being a prey animal, being hunted as a food source for humans and being run over by cars.
Opossums are not picky eaters. As scavenger omnivores, opossums eat everything from last night's meatloaf to grass. Food sources typically include dead animals, berries and nuts. Opossums will also hunt mice, birds, snakes and chickens. If it's edible and accessible, the opossum will eat it. This means you need to securely store your trash to prevent the animal from raiding your leftovers.
As long as there is water, food and shelter, opossums can call the area home. They prefer to live in trees and use their sharp nails and tails to climb and maintain balance. Opossums do not hang from their tails as commonly believed. Opossums are found in most areas of the United States, except for a lot of the Northwest.
Equipped with 50 sharp teeth, opossums can give a nasty bite. When frightened, the opossum will bare its teeth, hiss and growl. When hunted by predators or startled, opossums will play opossum, pretending to be dead. The animal becomes stiff and drops to the side in hopes of fooling its predators.
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Amy Brantley has been a writer since 2006, contributing to numerous online publications. She specializes in business, finance, food, decorating and pets.