Virginia opossum

(Didelphis virginiana)

Conservation Status
Virginia opossum
Photo by Ramona Abrego
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


N5 - Secure

S5 - Secure


not listed


Virginia opossum is the largest opossum in the world and the only marsupial in North America.

In northern states the undercoat is white and the guard hairs are tipped with black, resulting in an overall whitish-gray appearance. The tail is prehensile and naked. The basal third to half of the tail is black, the rest white. It is sometimes shortened from being partially frozen off.

The muzzle is long and narrow. The face is white. The ears are naked, paper thin, and black with a white tip. They are often shortened from being partially frozen off.




Head and body: 17 to 21½

Tail: 10¼ to 13¾




The front foot makes a star-like print with five toes pointing in different directions. The opposable thumb on the hind foot may point at right angles or even in the opposite direction of the rest of the toes. That thumb has no nail. The rear print is next to or partially covering the front print.

Opossums generally use the den of another animal, usually after it has been abandoned, sometimes chasing the original owner out. They do not dig their own dens.


Similar Species


Deciduous and mixed forests and woodlands, brushy areas, agricultural areas, old fields




Virginia opossum is usually active only at night.

When threatened it may feign death. This is the origin of the term “playing possum”.




About 2 years in the wild


Life Cycle






Insects and other invertebrates, small birds and mammals, frogs, carrion, bird eggs, fruits, grains, and human garbage.


Distribution Map



7, 15, 24, 29.




Common in the southern third of Minnesota, uncommon farther north, absent from the coniferous forest

  Class Mammalia (mammals)  
  Subclass Theria  
  Infraclass Metatheria (marsupials and allies)  
  Order Didelphimorphia (marsupials, American marsupials)  


Didelphidae (opossoms, American opossums)  


Didelphinae (large American opossums, mouse opossums, and allies)  
  Tribe Didelphini (large New World opossums)  


Didelphis (large American opossums)  

Subordinate Taxa


Californian opossum (Didelphis virginiana californica)

Florida opossum (Didelphis virginiana pigra)

Linnean opossum (Didelphis virginiana mesamericana)

Texan opossum (Didelphis virginiana texensis)

Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana virginiana)

Yucatán opossum (Didelphis virginiana yucatanensis)






Common Names


North American opossum


Virginia opossum










Visitor Photos

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Ramona Abrego

    Virginia opossum   Virginia opossum  
    Virginia opossum      








Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Virginia Opossum - HD Mini-Documentary
James Knott

Uploaded on May 26, 2009

Transcript: "The Virginia Opossum also known as the North American Opossum is the only marsupial in North America. Marsupials have pouches for carrying their young through early infancy.

Baby opossums live in these pouches for 2-3 months and then ride on their mothers backs for an additional month or two. This is a huge portion of their life, considering that opossums have an average life span of only two years in the wild.

Opossums are slow, solitary, nocturnal animals and prefer to be left alone. When threatened they will hiss and bear their teeth, but under extreme circumstances they will play dead. Playing Possum serves two purposes it discourages predators that only eat live prey and it convinces some larger animals that they are not a threat to their young.

Virginia Opossums are the largest Opossums in the world. They are 15-20 inches long and weigh 9 to 13 lbs about the size of a domestic cat.

They have clawless thumbs on their hind feet and hairless prehensile tails that can grab objects and help them to balance when they are climbing."

  Opossum, Where Art Thou? Rescue, Rehab, and Release
The Humane Society of the United States

Published on Sep 26, 2014

Watch Humane Wildlife Services and City Wildlife team up to give this little guy a second chance!

HWS was called out to find an opossum who had been trapped in a Washington, DC store for days. Once found, we could see that he was clearly malnourished, so we took him to City Wildlife for a little help. Once his health was restored, he was released 6 days later.

The Virginia Opossum is North America’s only marsupial. While they may look menacing when they show their teeth and hiss, it’s mainly a bluff. Their main defense mechanism is to play dead or ‘possum. They are excellent climbers who take advantage of an urban diet, which includes carrion, garbage, cockroaches, rats and mice. Coupled with the fact that they are less likely to contract rabies than any other mammal- opossums are one of our most beneficial, yet misunderstood wild neighbors.

Learn more about these amazing animals:

Learn more about City Wildlife – the only wildlife rehabilitation center in Washington DC:

  Adventures with Swamp Girl! Virginia Opossum!
Swamp Girl

Uploaded on Oct 19, 2009

Learn about the Virginia opossum with Swamp Girl!!

  Another Opossum

Uploaded on Jul 5, 2008

Young virginia opossum in Havahart trap.

  Virginia Opossum

Uploaded on Jul 13, 2009

Backyard buffet




Visitor Sightings

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  Duane Klooz

Location:  2527 16th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55404

first sighted in April. Since then I've discovered that theirs a family of them Residing under my neighbors house. For sure there are at least 3 possiums. Perhaps more I'm not sure. I just seen a baby walking thru my back yard. There it was, spotted it in the corner of my eye. As I was putting  mimzy down (my Chihuahua) to potty. Sudden change of plans. Straight back inside we went.. I Literally live 10 ft from the house next door further more, under my other neighbors front porch is a family of raccoons. All the gunshots lately in My neighborhood along with the mammals prowling late at night keeps me from having fun after dark.


Location: Edina

We saw a large opossum crossing the street into a neighbors yard. It went into the bushes.

  Iron Skye

Location: Minneapolis, MN

I live in South Minneapolis about 10 city blocks due east if I35W. This animal was seen on the 4400 block of Columbus Avenue for the second time this week, both times at about 11:30pm.


Burnsville, MN

Lakeville, MN

Savage Fen SNA





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