Opossum Fun Facts

Outdoor Outpost: March 2024

Joe Schuster | March 2, 2024

One of the truly awesome things about spending time in the outdoors is seeing wildlife in motion. As hunters, we see it almost every time that we’re in the woods. During deer season, you may see a hawk, owl, fox or raccoon, in addition to deer.

Perhaps on the way to your stand or blind, you may have even seen a set of eyes perched low to the ground and lit up by your flashlight. You may have bumped into a opossum. Not only have I run into them on several hunting occasions, but unfortunately I’ve seen an awful lot dead along the roads recently. Opossums are nocturnal, operating really well at night, and they rely on a really keen sense of smell during the dark hours. Perhaps their interest in food tops their ability to sense a moving vehicle? These critters are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants, as well as meat. Some of the opossum species are immune to rattlesnake venom.

Also, who knew that a meal of opossum and sweet potatoes were a favored meal in the South and served to honor a banquet for President-elect Taft in the early 1900s in Atlanta. Is that a meal you might try? Maybe if I didn’t know what it was!

Opossums have tails up to 20 inches long that are used to grab things and for balance, almost like an extra arm or leg. Interestingly, opossums are marsupials and are prolific breeders and can have as many as 20 offspring in a litter that may stay in her pouch for several weeks; the pouch serves as kind of a protective bag for her young ’uns.

Adults can weigh on average between 5 and 7 pounds, and they live only about 4 years. They have 50 teeth in their mouth and feast on frogs, insects and even ticks, as well as the occasional road-kill. Those teeth make them appear vicious, but they are typically not aggressive. When threatened, they tend to hiss and have an involuntary response that kicks where they appear to be dead. This is where the term “playing possum” comes from. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It may be used when someone appears to be dead or sleeping in order to avoid someone or avoid a task. In addition to faking to be dead, they can also secrete a really foul smelling odor (which I have not smelled yet) to fend off predators. I hope you remember this background the next time you see one. It may be on the way to your deer stand.

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