Opossums are the only species of marsupial found living in the United States; because they are a marsupial, they carry their young in a pouch. Opossums can be found living in most parts of Missouri, with their lowest numbers being found in the northwest and southeast regions.
Adult opossums grow to be about 15-20 inches in length not including their tail and weigh between 4 and 14 pounds. Their body is covered in whitish-gray fur and has longer guard hairs dispersed throughout it. Their long narrow face is usually lighter in color than their body. Opossum’s feet resemble small hands. They also have a long skinny hairless tail and hairless ears. The opossum can use their prehensile (capable of griping) tail to hang upside down from tree branches.
Opossums will mate in early February, and after a very short gestation period of just 12-13 days, their young will be born typically by the end of February. There are usually 5-7 young per litter. The young are hairless, blind, and only about ½ an inch in length; after birth, they will make their way to their mother’s pouch where they will stay and nurse until May when they begin to wean. The mothers will typically mate again right away and have another litter born near the end of May. This litter will wean sometime in September. Once the young wean, they will leave their mothers and wander around until they find a suitable area to live; after their first year, they will be ready to mate and produce litters of young themselves.
Opossums aren’t picky about where they live as long as it is near a stream or swampy wet area. They can be found in densely wooded areas or just as easily in open fields. Opossums can be found creating their burrows in piles of wood, brush, in tree cavities, and in hollow logs. They prefer, however, to burrow underneath the ground and will do so under gardens, foundations, lawns, and along sidewalks. Opossums can, unfortunately, also be found burrowing in attics, crawl spaces, and in garages and sheds. Opossums are nocturnal and are omnivores; this means that they will hide during the day in their burrows and come out at night to feed on a wide variety of food sources. They can be found feeding on foods such as: pet food, garbage, decaying animals, insects, fish, fruits, seeds, and grains. In order to defend themselves against other predators opossums will growl, hiss, screech, bite and scratch; and if all of those tactics don’t work, they will “play dead” to try and outwit the predator. Opossums are very smart creatures having the same or better cognitive abilities as the domestic dog.
Preventing opossums from invading your home and property is important for several reasons. They will damage lawns and gardens, dig through trash, and are aggressive- not hesitating to bite or scratch if cornered. They will also get into your home, damaging it and your belongings, and can introduce diseases to you and your family through their urine and feces. In order to prevent problems with opossums, you should make sure that all outdoor garbage cans have tight-fitting lids on them, keep lids on compost bins, and pick up any uneaten pet food. It is also important to make sure that any openings found in your home’s foundation, roofline, or exterior walls are repaired, place caps on all chimneys, and make sure that vent covers are secure.
The best way to prevent and control opossums is to partner with a professional pest control company who has the experience and equipment necessary to trap and humanely remove this wildlife from your property. At Rottler, we can eliminate opossums from your property through our wildlife control program. Our professionals will inspect your home and property and provide you with the best options available to remove pest opossums from it.