Virginia Opossum - "Violet"
Violet joined WERC's team in December of 2016. She originally arrived at the ASPCA of Monterey with her siblings after their mother was killed. Violet's tail was partially eaten off by her litter mates (a common occurrencence in young Opossums in this situation), but this was not a problem for release in to the wild. When it came time to release Violet, she decided she would rather climb up the legs of her caretakers than venture in to the wild like her siblings, which indicated she was imprinted on her human caregivers. Violet was transferred to us so we could evaluate her temperment for use as an educational ambassador. She was added to our team after it was determined she was a good fit.
Opossum Fast Facts:
Measurements: Adults’ average length is about 28” from foot-long tail to nose. Weight is about 4-5 pounds. [length range = 25-40”; weight range = 4-14 lbs]
Diet: They are omnivorous mammals, eating carrion (road kill and other already dead food), snakes, insects (including worms, slugs and snails), fruit, etc. Will also eat pet food and garbage that is left outside. They do not dig up gardens or overturn garbage cans. Nocturnal (night hunting)
North America’s only marsupial animal—their babies are born very early and develop in the mother’s abdominal pouch, like the kangaroo and koala. They have 1 to 14 young at a time that attach themselves to the nipple for 2 months; 2 or 3 litters per year. Nest made with leaves in a hollow log, abandoned burrow or other sheltered place.
Opossums’ paws are dexterous and they are able to grasp branches and food. Their hind feet have a thumb-like opposable toe without a nail. They have a prehensile tail that helps them balance and keep from falling, but contrary to cartoons, adults do not hang from branches. The tail is also used to carry nesting material (leaves, etc.).
Opossums have 50 teeth—more than any other animal.
They do not hibernate. They are solitary animals.
Opossums are not aggressive: If hissing and baring their teeth doesn’t scare away a predator, they will “play sick” by drooling and pooping; if that doesn’t work, they will “play dead”.
Opossums very, very rarely carry rabies, due to their low body temperature.