Virginia Opossum - "Leilani"
Leilani joined WERC's team in June of 2019. She originally arrived at the Pacific Wildlife Care with injuries to her skull and left eye. She recovered from the injuries, but upon further observations it was seen that Leilani could not locate her food in her kennel. Smell is a very vital sense to these marsupials, it is how they locate food in the wild. With this observation made, the decision was made that Leilani could not be successfully released to the wild. Leilani was transferred to us so we could evaluate her temperament 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.