Opossums, also called possums, are marsupials that belong to the family Dipheldidae. There are over 100 species of opossums, from the pocket-sized pygmy opossum to the only marsupial in North America, the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana).
Most opossums are nocturnal creatures and are excellent climbers. They are known for playing dead, or “playing possum,” when they feel threatened. Opossums are also known to have many babies and a very short gestation period. So, just how long is the gestation period of an opossum?
The Gestation Period of Opossums
Opossums have a relatively short gestation period, only 12-13 days. This is much shorter than the gestation period of placental mammals such as humans, which is about 9 months.
During the short gestation period, the female opossum gives birth to anywhere from 1 to 22 offspring. The young are born blind and hairless and are about the size of a jellybean.
They crawl into their mother’s pouch, where they will nurse and continue to develop. After about 2 months, they are weaned and begin to explore the world on their own.
Their gestation period can vary by species. Below are the estimated gestation periods for some common opossum species:
Virginia Opossum: 13 days
Common Opossum: 14 days
White-eared Opossum: 12 days
Gray Short-tailed Opossum: 15 days
Big Lutrine Opossum: 14 days
Bare-tailed Woolly Opossum: 24 days
It’s important to know that these can change and vary. Opossums thrive differently and adapt at their own pace, depending on the environment.
Opossums Mating Season
The opossum mating season happens during late winter and early spring. This is from January to March for most opossum species. But the Virginia opossum has a longer mating season, from as early as December to October.
Opossums Mating Habits
During the opossum breeding season, the male will follow the female until she’s ready to mate. But, the process starts with the signal given off by the female as she releases a scent from her tail. If the male is not welcomed, she will growl and show her teeth as a warning sign.
The males will make a series of exhibitions to impress the female. This includes making loud sounds and urinating to make marks to own territory.
Opossums Nesting Habits
After the female opossum is ready to mate, they will find a safe place to build their nest. The female will give birth inside the nest and transfer newborn opossums to her pouch after birth. The baby opossums will stay inside the pouch until they are about 2 months old.
The male opossum leaves right after reproduction, so the females deal with pregnancy and childbirth alone.
The female opossum will take care of her young until they are able to fend for themselves. Once they leave the nest, they are on their own and will not return.
How Many Babies How Many Babies Do Opossums Have?
The female opossums produce anywhere from 1 to 22 liters, but the average litter size is 6-8. An opossum offspring is also called a “joey.” The babies exit the birth canal and connect themselves to a teat to develop. They are born altrical- meaning they are blind and naked.
After a week of suckling, the young grow to triple its size, and its weight increases 10 times. Then, after being in the pouch for 60-70 days, the young finally get the first glance of their mother. The young will have slight control of their body temperature and are about the size of an average house rat.
Two weeks after getting their eyes opened, they slowly lose grip of their mother’s nipple and will venture out of the pocket.
At 2 months of age, the young opossums will begin to venture out of the pouch on their own, but they will stay close to their mother until they are ready to strike out on their own. At this point, they are considered juveniles and will start to look for food and shelter.
Professional Opossum Removal
Opossums, despite being small, can cause a lot of damage to your property. They leave burrows and rummage through your garbage cans. If you think you have an opossum problem, your best action is to contact AAAC Wildlife Removal. Our experts can help you eliminate opossums in the safest and most effective manner possible.
AAAC Wildlife Removal has experience dealing with opossums and can help you get rid of them for good!
Opossums are marsupials with the shortest gestation period in North America. These mammals can give birth to anywhere from 1 to 22 babies, born unfurred and completely naked. They give birth as fast as 12 to 13 days after reproduction.
After birth, their young stay in the pouch for 1-2 months and climb to their mother’s back to venture out into the new surrounding. They stay with their mother for quite some time until they become physically mature and capable of their own. To learn more about the gestation period of opossums and their reproductive cycle, click here: opossum gestation period.
If you have opossums causing issues on your property, contact AAAC Wildlife Removal for professional assistance. Our experienced team can safely and humanely remove opossums and help resolve any related concerns you may have.