University of Maryland Extension

Opossums

opossum

Opossums are nocturnal animals commonly seen all over Maryland. Even though they are a nocturnal animal they will occasionally be seen during the day. Typically found near streams, they also feel at home in suburban areas. Opossums are members of a primitive group of animals known as marsupials, which carry their young in a pouch. The mating season is long, from January through July. Opossums grow to the size of a small house cat. They are a light gray with a white underside, have a pointed nose and small ears, and a hairless tail much like a rat. Opossums are typically a solitary animal with a home range of 10 to 50 acres. Opossums hide during the day in hollow logs, holes in trees, holes in the ground, culvert pipes and brush piles.

They feed on small animals, insects (they consume ticks!), fruits and vegetables and pet food left out overnight. With 50 teeth, more than any other North American mammal, they may look dangerous. They are basically of little harm to plants, or people. They can become a problem when they start ripping open trash bags and raiding trashcans. They occasionally will eat from fruit trees, but this small amount of feeding can usually be tolerated. Opossums roam around in their range, spending a few days or weeks in one place and then moving to another. Opossums are quiet, solitary animals. When frightened they may quickly slip away, unless cornered and harassed, when they will hiss, growl, and bite. If these tactics fail they often "play dead", until the offender leaves. All food sources should be eliminated and trashcan lids kept securely fastened. Commercially available animal repellents can be used to chase out an opossum that is living under a porch, deck or other undesirable places. However, their effectiveness is questionable. Porches and sheds should also be sealed off to exclude opossums. They can be live trapped and turned over to your local animal control department or relocated with landowner consent. The occurrence of rabies is possible, but very rarely documented with opossums.

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