What Kind Of Animal Are Opossums?

Picture of opossum removed by a wildlife pro

Contrary to popular belief, opossums are marsupials. Marsupials are mammals with a pouch on their abdomens, making them the only mammals with this feature. Opossum young spend about two months in the pouch after birth, and several litters are produced between January and July. Koalas, kangaroos, and wombats are examples of marsupials.

Only opossums live in North America, north of Mexico, out of all the marsupials. Other than that, Australia and South America are the most common locations.

Learn More: Opossum FAQ

Are Opossums Rodents?

The opossum species is not related to the rodent family, despite its appearance. The opossum is a marsupial, or pouched mammal, and thus related to other marsupials like the kangaroo and the koala. Infant opossums, like kangaroos and koalas, stay in their mothers’ pouches to nurse and develop. The opossum is the only marsupial species found in North America.

What Makes Possums Unique?

Opossums aren’t indestructible, but they do have several natural defenses. Although rabies is rare in these animals, they are largely immune to it. They’re also resistant to the venom of cottonmouth and rattlesnake snakes.

With sharp claws, opposable thumbs on their hind feet, and a prehensile tail that helps them scale trunks and hang onto branches, opossums are world-class tree climbers. Opossums adore climbing so much that they frequently build their nests in tree hollows and attics.

When threatened, opossums use a variety of defense mechanisms, including growling, belching, and urinating. However, their most well-known defense mechanism is “playing ‘possum,” which is similar to playing dead. The opossum pretending isn’t the mechanism, though. The opossum seizes up as a result of an involuntary reaction that is similar to fainting. To simulate sickness, opossums will sometimes bare their teeth, foam at the mouth, and produce foul-smelling fluids from their anal glands.

Where Do Marsupial Species Live?

There are 334 marsupial species on the planet. Australia is home to 235 of them. The kangaroo and wallaby are two of the most well-known marsupials that most people are familiar with. In Central and South America, there are 99 different marsupial species. The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial found in North America.

The opossum can be found in the eastern half of the United States, Mexico, and Central America. The opossum’s range has been expanding northward into the Great Plains states in recent decades. Surprisingly, opossums can be found all along the West Coast, from California to the Canadian border.