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Virginia Opossum


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The Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is the only living marsupial from North America. It is common in the eastern USA and has spread north and west. This large opossum lives in deciduous forests and prairies.

Virginia Opossums are nocturnal (most active at night). They sleep during the day in a den in a hollow tree or in an abandoned rodent burrow.

Playing Possum: When opossums are attacked, they will "play possum," pretending that they are dead; they remain still, do not blink, and their tongue hangs out. This act often makes the attacker lose interest in the opossum. Some of their many predators include foxes and dogs.

Anatomy: The Virginia Opossum is about 2.5 feet (76 cm) long, including its foot-long, hairless, prehensile (grasping) tail. This opossum is about the size of a cat. It has a clawless, opposable thumb on each hind foot.

The Pouch: The young are about the size of a bee when they are born. Females have a fur-lined pouch on their abdomen into which these tiny, under-developed young crawl. The young live and drink milk from teats in the pouch for about 2 months.

Diet: The Virginia Opossum is an omnivore (eating both plants and animals). It eats insects, lizards, mice, snails, earthworms, fruit, nuts, seeds, grasses, and carrion (dead meat that it finds, like road kill).

Classification: Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Mammalia, Subclass Metatheria (marsupials), Order Didelphimorphia (opossums), Family Didelphidae, Genus Didelphis, species virginiana.

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