Opossums are nocturnal animals that are known for having pouches like kangaroos. These marsupials are native to Australia and New Zealand, and North America. In the U.S. the Virginia Opossum is the only marsupial and the only species found.
Opossums are nocturnal animals that are about the size of a house cat. They have a pointed snout, small ears, and a long, prehensile tail. Opossums are omnivores and will eat just about anything, including carrion. While most people know about their habits and appearance, few only know when they produce offspring. So, let’s find out!
Mating Season of Opossums
The mating season for possums generally begins at the end of winter, falling between January and March. During this time, female possums release a scent when in heat, and the male navigates the smell given off. But, selecting a partner is a mutual decision.
The male opossums will also perform a “show” of sorts by making loud grunting noises and urine spraying to mark their territory.
Mating Habits of Opossums
During the mating season, opossums will go through a lot of changes. The first change is their diet; the opossum will consume more food during this time as they need to create more energy for mating. Secondly, male and female hormones will surge, making them more aggressive.
The male opossum will also start to urine mark more to attract potential mates and mark their territories. Lastly, the scrotum of a male opossum will increase in size as they prepare for the breeding season.
When an opossum is ready to mate, the female will release a special scent from her genitals. The male will then follow the scent until he finds the female. The mating process can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Afterward, the male opossum will start to search for another mate.
How many offsprings do opossums have?
Opossums produce 6-8 babies at a time, but some have been known to have up to 13 babies. Newborn opossums are born very underdeveloped and about the jellybean size. They make their way into the mother’s pouch and will attach themselves to a teat. They will not detach until they are 4-5 weeks old.
After birth, female opossums get protective over their young and become more aggressive. They will also start to produce special milk high in fat and protein to help them grow quickly.
Opossums do not raise young by themselves
The father opossum leaves right after a successful mate. The mother will spend most of her time in her nest with her young until they are old enough to leave the nest and fend for themselves. The female is now left to fend for and raise the young by herself.
The factor leading to male opossums not participating in child-rearing is the females keeping them closely inside the pouch. If they ventured out, the mother opossum would most likely attack them.
Where does opossum nest?
Opossums do not build nests because they keep their young in their pouch. So, a mother opossum will typically lurk around their usual habitats. This includes trees, abandoned burrows, and brush piles.
However, there is a special type of opossum- the ringtail possum. They are the only species of a possum that builds nests. These nests are built out of leaves and twigs and are usually found in the crook of thick branches or the hollows of trees.
Possums are induced ovulators, meaning the female’s body only releases eggs when she is ready to mate. Possums also have a relatively unique way of giving birth: they give birth to underdeveloped young, making their way into the mother’s pouch to continue developing.
These marsupials have a short gestation period because the young develops outside the womb. The gestation last approximately two weeks.
Opossums also have a relatively unique way of giving birth. When the female is ready to give birth, she will push the babies out of her vagina and into her marsupium (pouch). From the birth canal, baby opossums will then find their way to a teat and attach themselves.
When young opossums become too big to fit inside the pouch, they will make their way to the exit and climb onto the mother’s back. The young opossums will ride on the mother’s back until they become entirely independent.
- Possums have an involuntary mechanism called “Playing Opossum.” This pertains to their apparent death or ability to act dead whenever they feel threatened.
- Possums have a prehensile tail. The tails enable their balance and act as a fifth limb, similar to monkeys. This means they can use their tails to grip and hold on to things.
- Their hind feet have an opposable first toe, which they use to grip branches and help them climb.
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Opossums have fascinating mating habits and reproductive behaviors. They mate during the months of January through March, with females emitting an attractive scent and males using grunting noises and urine spray marks to impress them. After successful mating, female opossums give birth to 6-8 babies and nurse them on their own, without assistance from the male.
Opossums possess unique characteristics and behaviors that make them intriguing creatures. However, if you find yourself dealing with an opossum problem, it’s important to seek professional assistance. AAAC Wildlife Removal is here to help. To learn more about opossum mating season, click here: opossum mating season.
Our team of experts can provide effective solutions and guidance for opossum-related issues, ensuring the safety and well-being of both humans and wildlife.