Animals

Possum Facts You'll Never Believe

Possum facts are extremely interesting for kids and adults alike
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Possums are wild animals that fall under the marsupials category. These creatures are very familiar with the technique called 'the play dead'. These animals often play dead as a defense mechanism to protect themselves when they feel threatened or to protect themselves from danger caused by humans. They are solitary and nocturnal animals and are mainly found in wild areas like trees, brushy places, or in woodpiles in North America and Australia. Dead animals, plants, insects, fruit, and grains are often on their menu. Sometimes, eggs and birds also feature on the menu too.

Possums look like big rats with a pointed face, jaw full of teeth and a long thick tail like rats. They have white and gray fur on their body. Possums are nasty nest keepers and are known for their foul-smell and for eating out of garbage cans. Numerous species of Opossums can be found in wildlife such as Virginia opossum, common opossum, bare tailed woolly opossum, Derby's woolly opossum, brown four eyes opossum, and Daintree River ringtail possum. Possums usually love to live alone. When two possums are seen together they are most likely a 'jill' and a 'joey', meaning 'mother' and 'baby' respectively. Joeys often take joy rides on their mother's back and they hunt for food together. A possum can carry around six or seven possums at once on their back. Mother possums use their tails to protect their babies from falling to the ground.

If you are growing fond of reading amazing phenomena about possums you can also check out ghost bat and common wombat for reading.

Possum

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Insects, frogs, snails, slugs, cockroaches, and scorpions

What do they eat?

Carnivore

Average litter size?

8-20

How much do they weigh?

2.6 lb (1.2 kg)

How long are they?

5.9-13.7 in (15-35 cm)


How tall are they?

2.5 ft (76 cm)


What do they look like?

Possums are marsupials that look like house cats

Skin Type

Fur

What are their main threats?

Humans

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Trees, brushes, burrows near dens, tunnels, and trash areas

Locations

Australia, United States, North America, Canada, and Indonesia

Kingdom

Animalia

Class

Mammal

Scientific Name

Didelphis virginiana

Family

Didelphidae

Genus

Didelphis

Possum Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a possum?

A possum is an animal that is a member of the marsupial species and resembles a house rat. It has gray and white fur on its body.

What class of animal does a possum belong to?

Opossums are known to be from Mammalian class as possums directly give birth to their babies and feed them milk. They also have fur on their body.

How many possums are there in the world?

The exact number is not registered. Though it is noted there are 30 million possums in Australia. There are  more than 110 species and 19 genera different types of possums.

Where does a possum live?

Possums can be found in wild areas of North America, South America, Australia, and Canada.

What is a possum's habitat?

These animals are usually found in a forest habitat such as trees, dens, bushes, and burrows. They are also fond of watery or moist areas near ponds or sewers.  They can also be found in cities around trash areas where people dump their garbage.

Who does a possum live with?

As they are marsupials, female possums have a little pouch and they use it to carry their young babies. After they give birth, the young newborns crawl into their mother's pouch where they stay for at least 100 days as they are deaf and blind after being born. As they grow older, the babies ride on their mother's back to hunt for food.

How long does a possum live?

These animals live around two to four years depending on the species.

How do they reproduce?

During mating season, male possums try to attract female possums by making a characteristic mating call with their mouth. Female possums can have between eight to 20 babies and can litter one to three times a year. Virginia possums' breeding season starts from December and continues through to October. Their babies are born between February and June. They are born between 12 and 14 days after mating. After the baby possums are born, they crawl into their mother's pouch and grow there safely for 100 days. Young babies are completely blind and deaf at birth. When they have grown up, the babies ride on their mother's back when they are hunting for food.

What is their conservation status?

Possums are marsupials which according to the IUCN Red List are considered to be of Least Concern. However, over the past few decades, uncontrolled industrialization and urbanization has led to their habitat being destroyed and thus significantly reducing their numbers.

Possum Fun Facts

What does a possum look like?

Possums fall under marsupials species and they look like house cats. This animal has a long pointed face and ears with a jaw full of teeth, large canines and short incisors. Its body is full of white and gray fur and it has a thick, hairy tail. There are many species and they all look slightly different. The species that can be found in Canada is called Virginia possums. Though they look almost identical to possums with a pointed face and round ears, their tails are hairless and they are as long as their body. They have five toes in total, four toes have claws while one doesn't have a claw. Marmosa is another type of possum which is brown and yellow in color. The bare tailed woolly possum is gray and orange in color with a dark brown stripe between its eyes.

The possum population over the years has been exponentially threatened by humans

How cute are they?

Possums are cute as they do not grow more than 15 in (38 cm). A female possum has a little pouch in its  belly to carry her babies. Their little toes make them even more cute than they already are. Short-tailed possums are good pets as they are known for their clean and healthy diet. When female possums carry their children on their back it is definitely a cute sight to witness. Their cuteness definitely plays a part in people keeping them as pets.

How do they communicate?

This animal makes clicking sounds with its mouth to communicate.  Sometimes they use vocal and visual tactics such as screeching and growling. They make various kinds of sounds to communicate with each other.

How big is a possum?

An average size of a possum is between 5-14 in (12.7-35.6 cm). Their height is about 2.5 ft (76cm). They are four times smaller than a tiger.

How fast can a possum run?

Possums are a type of marsupial that can run around 4 mph (6kph).

How much does a possum weigh?

Possums weigh around 2.6 lb (1.2 kg) which is not much.

What are the male possum and female possum called?

Male possums are called 'Jack' and female possums are called 'Jill'.

What would you call a baby possum?

A baby possum is called a 'joey'.

What do they eat?

Possums are marsupials and they mostly eat food which can be found in the wild such as plants, fruits, grain, dead animals, and insects. Sometimes birds and eggs are on the menu along with snails, slugs, and pollen. When possums live in the city, they rummage through the garbage to survive. Babies are too young to hunt for food on their own so they live for about 50 to 100 days in their mother's pouch. Once they grow up and leave the pouch they can eat almost everything from cockroaches, snails, insects to slugs.

Are they dangerous?

Possums are not known to be dangerous animals. They usually do not make any threats although they bite and screech to defend themselves. It is very rare for a possum to get rabies, however sometimes their low body temperature makes it hard for them to survive. Baby possums can not play dead like the adult ones, so they screech and growl to elude predators.

They are not capable of killing humans, but as they live freely in the wild and have a jaw full of teeth they can bite hard which can be harmful to human beings.

Possums dig up yards and soil for food and while doing so they can cause damage to lawns.

Would they make a good pet?

Possums usually live alone and live a solitary life, though Native people keep possums as pets. Short-tailed possums are good pets and they are known for consuming a healthy diet. Their cuteness definitely plays a role as to why people keep them as pets.

Did you know....

Possums and opossums are different. Most people think they are the same, however, they are not. Possums are found in Australia, while those found in North America are called Opossums.

It is very rare for a possum to get rabies. Possums are known to be immune creatures. They aren't likely to spread a contagious disease. They are also immune to Lyme disease.

Possums have a very sharp and splendid memory. They are good at navigating and remembering the taste of food.

They are immune to snake venom. Snake venom can be deadly for most animals and creatures but possums are an exception. They can survive even after a snake bites them.

Opossums can eat 5000 bugs a year. Along with dead animals, birds and eggs they kill thousands of bugs every year.

The best way to catch a possum is by using a humane trap. It should be a wire mesh box and the best bait to entice a possum is either fish or apples.

Possums are skilled climbers, swimmers and also have a great sense of hearing.

Possum babies are as small as honeybees. Among 20 babies, most do not survive. They die before they have reached their mother's pouch.

Where do possums sleep at night?

Possums are known as nocturnal animals. They are awake at night and sleep during the day. During the day, they find shelter in tunnels, under rocks or in bushes.

Where does the possum originate from?

Possums can usually be found in Australia. Virginia opossums are the only marsupials that are native to North America. Possums are little creatures and can be seen in various areas of South America, Canada and Indonesia. North America is identified as the center of all living marsupials. Two skeletons of marsupial-like creatures were discovered by professors at the University of California. These skeletons are around 30 million years old which tells us when possums were first around. The word 'opossum' originated from 'aposoum', meaning 'white beasts'.

Possums have survived for 65 million years and externally, they have not gone through many changes. Their surviving skills have sharpened over the years.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including Mexican free-tailed bat, or Chinese hamsters.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Halloween Bat coloring pages.

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