THE OPOSSUM IN ILLINOIS
Oppossums commonly reach weights of 6 to 15 pounds and attain lengths of 24 to 33 inches. The Opossum is the only marsupial (carries its’ young in a pouch) in North America. Opossums have white fur tipped with gray or black and white guard hairs. They have a long, narrow snout, pink nose, and bare ears. The inner side of the ear is black. Their tails are nearly as long as their body and are almost hairless. Like raccoons and skunks, opossums are omnivorous and will eat carrion as well. They are scavengers and will help in removing carcasses in their home range. We are very effective at trapping and removing opossums. To prevent a wildlife intrusion by an opossum, be sure to discard all food waste in a properly sealed garbage container. Don’t leave pet food outside
Opossums breed in late January and early February with some animals breeding again in May. Females have 1 to 2 liters per year. The average size liter size is 7 to 8 young. The female gives birth to underdeveloped young about 13 days after mating. At this stage, the young are about the size of a bumblebee and must crawl to their mothers’ pouch where they continue to develop. Young opossums leave the pouch when they are 2 to 3 months old but remain near the female so they can return to the pouch and nurse. During this stage of their life, they can be seen riding around on the females back. By the time they are 3 months old they will be weaned and on their own.
Opossums live near wooded areas and have adapted to urban areas. Opossums do not build their own dens. They take cover in abandoned dens of other animals, in and under sheds, decks, concrete porches and brush piles. Opossums are common throughout Illinois. A study of opossums in central Illinois estimated there were 300 opossums per square mile during mid-summer. Opossums are nocturnal (active at night). They are solitary except while females are raising their young. Opossums are generally shy and passive. When a opossum is threatened, it will stand still, bare its’ teeth, and hiss or growl. If this fails, it may pretend to be dead (playing possum).