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No Cats or Dogs


image of a opossum
11/28/2022 5 minute read

How Do Opossums Socialize?

Socialization in wild animals is essential for their overall development and health. It is how they learn skills that become vital as they thrive to survive in the wild and different living environments. For opossums, socialization is key in their upbringing too.

Animals are generally separated into two categories when it comes to social behavior. They can either be solitary or social. A solitary animal usually lives and survives on its own, with little to no social interaction with other members of its species. On the other hand, social animals live in groups and often have complex social structures.

But when it comes to solitary nature, there are some exceptions to the rule. Some solitary animals will still interact with other animals of their kind but much less frequently. So, when do opossums come in? Let’s find out how opossums socialize!

Opposum screeching

Social Behavior

Every animal exhibit a social behavior- even if they’re known to thrive alone their entire lifetime. 

Social behavior is any interaction between two members of the same species. It’s how animals communicate with one another and ultimately understand their place in the animal kingdom’s social hierarchy.

Opossum foraging for fruit

Social system

The social system of opossums is very flexible. Normally, they are solitary animals, but when the opportunity for socialization presents itself, they will take it. For example, when food is scarce, several opossums will group to forage for food. Once the food source is gone, they will go their separate ways again.

In fact, some observations witness that opossums even use the same den (gregarious denning) without being hostile to each other.

During breeding, male and female opossums will come together to mate. After mating, the female opossum will build a nest and raise her young alone. The young opossums will stay with their mother until they are old enough to fend for themselves, usually around 6-8 months.

After they leave their mother’s side, young opossums will start socializing with other opossums their age. They will play together and learn essential skills they need to survive independently. This period of socialization is crucial for their development and health.

Communication

Opossums use different modes of communication when interacting with each other. They exhibit chemical, vocal, visual, and tactile signals.

Chemical signals are essential for socialization, as they help opossums identify potential mates and recognize members of their species. These signals are also used to communicate danger and mark territory.

Vocalizations are another way that opossums communicate with each other. These vocalizations can be divided into two categories: communication calls and distress calls. Communication calls are used to keep in contact with other opossums and include sounds like grunts, clicks, and whinnies. Distress calls are only used when an opossum is in danger or feels threatened, including screams, screeches, and growls.

Opossums also use visual signals to communicate with each other. For example, when an opossum is threatened, it will open its mouth and bare its teeth as a warning signal. Additionally, opossums use their tails for communication. They will wrap their tails around each other when socializing or grooming.

Tactile signals are another way that opossums communicate with each other. They will often groom each other to show affection or establish dominance. Opossums will also wrap their tails around each other when they are socializing or grooming each other.

opossum sneaking inside the yard

The Only Opossum in North America

The Virginia opossum is the only species of the opossum and the only native marsupial found in North America. Being a marsupial means they have a pouch on their belly where they carry their young. Marsupials are different from other mammals because they carry their young in a pouch on their belly instead of in the womb.

Virginia opossums are nocturnal animals, which means they are active at night. It is also an omnivore, which eats plants and animals. The Virginia opossum has a pretty short life. They can live for 2-4 years in the wild and up to 10 years in captivity.

The Virginia opossum is about the size of a domestic cat. It has a white face, black eyes, and a long, naked tail. Its fur is grayish-white, and it has five toes on each foot.

opossum playing in the garden

Defense Mechanism

If you ever encounter a dead opossum- don’t be fooled! They might not be. One of the most exciting things about opossums is their ability to play dead when they feel threatened. Playing possum is an opossum’s way of protecting itself. When it plays possum, it falls over and remains still. It will often open its mouth and tongue, drool, and secrete a foul-smelling liquid from its anal glands.

Playing possums is an involuntary response that is triggered by fear. It usually lasts about 40 minutes, during which the opossum is completely unresponsive. Opossums are not aggressive animals and usually only attack if they feel threatened.

Mating Season

The mating season for opossums is from January to June. During this time, male opossums will compete with each other for the attention of females. The males often make loud grunting noises and display their teeth to intimidate their rivals.

After a female opossum chooses a mate, it will mate multiple times over the course of several days. The male and female will stay together for a few days after mating but eventually go their separate ways.

baby opossum running wild

Pregnancy and Birth

After mating, the female opossum will carry her young in her pouch for about two months. During this time, the opossum babies will develop inside the pouch and feed on their mother’s milk.

A baby opossum is about a jellybean size. They are born blind and deaf and will spend the next few weeks inside their mother’s pouch. After about two months, the opossums will leave their mother’s pouch and explore the world independently.

a opossum inside a trap

How to Get Rid of Opossums

If you have opossums on your property, the best way to get rid of them is by using live traps. Live traps are cages that capture animals without harming them. Once the opossum is captured, it can be released into a wooded area far away from your home.

You can also try to deter opossums from your property by removing food sources and hiding places. Opossums are attracted to garbage, so make sure to keep your trash cans covered. Remove any piles of wood or debris from your property, as opossums like to hide in these areas. 

Pesticides, insecticides, and other pest treatment products are available for purchase, but these should only be used as a last resort. These products can harm opossums and other animals, so it is vital to use them carefully.

AAAC Wildlife Removal is not only experienced in rodent and pest control matters. We’ll be your long-awaited exterminator for infestations like bed bugs, mosquitoes, termites, ants, cockroaches, and other insects! Most of these insects hatch their eggs quickly, so you’ll need experts to respond to your pest struggles immediately.

a family of opossum in the garden

Need Help with Opossums?

The sight of opossums as they invade your property at night does not always conjure a positive thought. They can steal fruit, eat flowers, intrude on pet or cat food, or make your garage and roof messy. In some cases, they may even scare your pets. 

If you’re having trouble with opossums, contact AAAC Wildlife Removal. We are trained and equipped to handle these animals most safely and humanely.

Final Thoughts

Opossums are solitary animals. They thrive alone and don’t need other opossums companies for survival. However, they still exhibit multiple social interactions- even human contact. This is because socialization is vital for their development and health.

Socialization helps opossums learn the skills they need to survive in the wild. When socializing, opossums use different modes of communication, including chemical, vocal, visual, and tactile signals. These signals help them identify potential mates, recognize members of their species, and communicate danger or mark territory.

FAQs

Do opossums carry diseases?

Like rats and mice that infest your home, opossums can host diseases. They can carry rabies, leptospirosis, and toxoplasmosis. If you come into contact with an opossum, washing your hands and avoiding touching your face is essential.

What do opossums eat?

Opossums are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. Their diet consists of insects, small mammals, fruits, and vegetables.

Do opossums live in trees?

No, opossums do not live in trees. They are terrestrial animals and prefer to live on the ground. However, they are good climbers and can climb trees if necessary.

Are opossums immune to snake venom?

If you think no one is safe from snakes, one animal exhibits a unique behavior. Opossums have immunity to snake venom. They have a protein in their blood that neutralizes the venom.