Joan Griffen

Joan Griffen

Modified & Updated: 09 Sep 2023


When it comes to fascinating creatures that inhabit our world, the opossum is a true standout. These small marsupials have captured the curiosity and awe of animal enthusiasts for years. With their unique characteristics and intriguing behaviors, opossums have managed to adapt and survive in a variety of habitats.

In this article, we will delve into 13 incredible facts about opossums that will leave you amazed and wanting to learn more. From their impressive ability to play dead to their remarkable reproductive habits, opossums have a wealth of interesting traits that make them one of nature’s most underrated animals.

So, get ready to explore the world of opossums and uncover the fascinating details about these remarkable creatures!

Table of Contents

Opossums are the only marsupials native to North America.

Unlike kangaroos and koalas, which are well-known marsupials in Australia, opossums reside exclusively in the Americas. They are primarily found in North America, with Virginia opossum being the only species present in the United States and Canada.

Opossums have a prehensile tail.

One distinguishing feature of opossums is their long, hairless tail, which they use as an extra limb. These flexible tails help them maintain balance, grip branches, and even carry nesting materials.

Opossums are excellent climbers.

Thanks to their sharp claws and agile bodies, opossums are skilled climbers. They can effortlessly navigate trees, using their tails for support and balance as they move through the branches.

Opossums are opportunistic omnivores.

Opossums have a diverse diet, consisting of both plants and animals. They consume fruits, vegetables, insects, small mammals, birds, and even carrion. This adaptability allows them to thrive in a variety of environments.

Opossums have impressive immune systems.

Contrary to popular belief, opossums are highly resistant to diseases, including snake venom and rabies. Their immune system is remarkably efficient, making them less susceptible to various pathogens.

Opossums “play dead” as a defense mechanism.

When opossums feel threatened, they have a unique defense strategy: they play dead. This behavior, known as “playing possum”, involves lying motionless, sticking out their tongues, and emitting a foul odor to deter predators.

Opossums have a short lifespan.

Compared to other mammals, opossums have relatively short lifespans. In the wild, they typically live for about two to four years, while captive opossums can live up to six years.

Opossums are expert scavengers.

With their keen sense of smell, opossums excel at scavenging for food. They play a vital role in ecosystems by consuming carrion and helping keep the environment clean.

Opossums have a large number of teeth.

Opossums possess an impressive 50 teeth, more than any other mammal in North America. This dental setup allows them to adapt to a wide range of diets.

Opossums have prehensile paws.

In addition to their prehensile tail, opossums also have prehensile paws. This adaptation enables them to grasp and manipulate objects with precision, making them highly dexterous creatures.

Opossums are not aggressive animals.

Despite their fierce appearance, opossums are generally non-aggressive creatures. They prefer to avoid confrontations and will typically resort to playing dead or fleeing rather than engaging in combat.

Opossums have a large litter size.

Female opossums have the remarkable ability to give birth to large litters of young, often numbering up to 20 or more. However, due to limited nipples, only a few of these joeys typically survive.

Opossums have an essential role in controlling tick populations.

Opossums are known to be natural tick eliminators. They groom themselves meticulously and consume large numbers of ticks, helping reduce the prevalence of tick-borne diseases.

As we’ve learned from these 13 fascinating facts about opossums, these unique creatures have many remarkable qualities that contribute to their survival and ecological impact. Their ability to adapt, their diverse diet, and their distinctive defense mechanisms make them an important part of the animal kingdom. Next time you encounter an opossum, take a moment to appreciate the intriguing world of these resilient and resourceful marsupials.


In conclusion, opossums are fascinating creatures that have adapted to survive in various environments. Their unique characteristics, such as playing dead and having a prehensile tail, make them truly remarkable. Opossums also play a crucial role in our ecosystem by controlling pests and scavenging on carrion. Despite their unattractive reputation, they are actually beneficial animals that deserve our appreciation and protection. So, the next time you come across an opossum, remember these interesting facts and try to observe and admire them from a safe distance.


Q: Are opossums dangerous?

A: While opossums may hiss and show their teeth when threatened, they are generally non-aggressive and will likely flee rather than attack. They are more interested in avoiding conflict than causing harm.

Q: Do opossums carry diseases?

A: Like any wild animal, opossums can carry diseases such as leptospirosis and fleas. However, the risk of transmission to humans is relatively low as long as you avoid direct contact and take necessary precautions when handling them.

Q: Can opossums be kept as pets?

A: In some areas, it is possible to have a pet opossum with the proper permits and licenses. However, opossums require specialized care and can be challenging to keep as pets. It is often best to admire them from afar and let them live in their natural habitat.

Q: What do opossums eat?

A: Opossums have a varied diet and are considered omnivores. They eat fruits, vegetables, insects, small animals, carrion, and even trash. This adaptability allows them to thrive in a wide range of environments.

Q: Do opossums make good neighbors?

A: Opossums are generally not harmful to humans or pets. Instead of causing damage, they can help control pests, including ticks and rodents. However, if they become a nuisance or threaten your property, it is best to consult with a wildlife expert for proper relocation methods.

Q: How long do opossums live?

A: In the wild, opossums typically live for about two to four years. However, in captivity and under optimal conditions, they can live up to six years.

Q: Do opossums play dead?

A: Yes, one of the most fascinating defense mechanisms of opossums is playing dead. When threatened or frightened, they can enter a catatonic state, lying motionless and appearing dead for a short period of time.

Q: Are opossums nocturnal?

A: Yes, opossums are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are active during the night. They have excellent night vision and are well-adapted to navigate and search for food in the dark.

Q: Do opossums hang by their tails?

A: While opossums have prehensile tails that can grip branches, they do not typically hang from them for extended periods. Their tails are primarily used for stability when climbing and balance while on the ground.

Q: Can opossums swim?

A: Yes, opossums are capable swimmers. They use both their back legs and tail to propel themselves through water, allowing them to traverse various habitats, including wetlands and swamps.