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Home » Blog » Opossum Carrying Babies: A Comprehensive Guide

Opossum Carrying Babies: A Comprehensive Guide

Opossum Carrying Babies A Comprehensive Guide


The sight of an opossum carrying babies is a fascinating, yet often misunderstood, aspect of wildlife behavior. These nocturnal marsupials, native to North America, exhibit unique parental care that ensures the survival of their young. This article delves into the intricacies of opossum behavior, the biology of their reproductive system, and the role of the mother in safeguarding her offspring. By understanding these details, we can appreciate the resilience and adaptability of these remarkable creatures.

Opossums are the only marsupials native to North America. Their reproductive system is uniquely adapted to their environment. Female opossums have a bifurcated reproductive tract, and males have a bifurcated penis, which is a rare trait among mammals. This adaptation plays a crucial role in their reproduction, allowing them to mate and give birth to multiple offspring at once.

The sight of an opossum mom carrying her babies is a remarkable example of maternal care in the animal kingdom. A mom opossum is often seen with opossum babies on back, providing them with safety and transportation as they cling to her fur. 

Parental Care and Development

opossum carrying babies

The gestation period for opossums is remarkably short, lasting only about 12-14 days. After this brief period, the female gives birth to underdeveloped young, each about the size of a jellybean. These tiny newborns must then make a perilous journey from the birth canal to the mother’s pouch, where they will latch onto a nipple and continue to develop.

The Maternal Pouch

Once inside the pouch, the baby opossums, also known as joeys, remain attached to the mother's nipples for approximately two months. The pouch provides a safe, warm environment essential for their development. During this period, the mama opossum body provides nourishment and protection, ensuring that the young are well-fed and shielded from predators and environmental hazards.

This unique behavior of the mother opossum carrying babies not only protects the young from predators but also ensures they remain close to their food source. 

Observing an opossum mom and babies together highlights the resilience and nurturing nature of these fascinating creatures.

Transition to the Outside World

After spending about two months in the pouch, the young opossums begin to venture outside, riding on their mother’s back. This phase is critical for their learning and development. The sight of an opossum carrying babies on her back is common during this stage, as the mother opossum continues to protect and teach her young about finding food and avoiding danger.

Behavioral Adaptations

mama opossum

Nocturnal Lifestyle

Opossums are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. This nocturnal lifestyle helps them avoid many predators and reduces competition for food with other animals. Their excellent night vision and keen sense of smell aid them in locating food and navigating their environment under the cover of darkness.

Diet and Foraging

Opossums are omnivores with a varied diet that includes fruits, insects, small animals, and even carrion. This diverse diet allows them to thrive in various environments, from forests to urban areas. The mother teaches her young to forage by example, demonstrating how to locate and consume different types of food.

Survival Strategies

Playing Dead

One of the most well-known survival strategies of opossums is playing dead or "playing possum." When threatened, an opossum may collapse and appear lifeless, with its mouth open and tongue hanging out. This behavior can deter predators who prefer live prey. Extreme fear is what causes it to respond involuntarily, showcasing the opossum's distinctive defense mechanisms.

Climbing and Nesting

Opossums are adept climbers, using their prehensile tails and sharp claws to navigate trees and structures. This ability is particularly useful for mothers carrying babies, as it allows them to reach safe nesting sites away from ground-based predators. They often nest in hollow trees, abandoned burrows, or even attics and sheds in urban areas.

Human Interaction and Misconceptions

mom opossum

Urban Adaptation

As urbanization encroaches on natural habitats, opossums have adapted to living in close proximity to humans. They play a beneficial role by controlling pest populations, such as insects and rodents. Despite their somewhat unsettling appearance and nocturnal habits, opossums are generally harmless to humans and pets.

Common Misconceptions

Opossums are often misunderstood and unfairly maligned. Common misconceptions include the belief that they are aggressive or rabid. In reality, opossums are shy, non-aggressive animals that prefer to avoid confrontation. They are also remarkably resistant to rabies, with a lower body temperature that inhibits the virus's growth.

Conservation and Protection

The Role of Opossums in the Ecosystem

Opossums play a crucial role in their ecosystems by controlling insect and rodent populations and cleaning up carrion. Their scavenging habits help maintain a balanced and healthy environment. Protecting opossums and their habitats ensures the continued health and diversity of our ecosystems.

Encouraging Coexistence

To encourage coexistence with opossums, it is important to educate the public about their beneficial role and dispel myths that lead to fear and mistreatment. Simple measures, such as securing trash bins and avoiding the use of poisons, can help reduce conflicts and support local opossum populations.

Opossum Health and Safety

mother opossum

Common Health Issues

Opossums, like any other wildlife, are susceptible to various health issues. They can suffer from diseases such as leptospirosis, tuberculosis, and coccidiosis. It is essential for wildlife rehabilitators to monitor the health of opossums, especially those that are orphaned or injured, to prevent the spread of diseases.

Signs of Illness in Opossums

Recognizing signs of illness in opossums can be challenging due to their nocturnal nature and secretive behavior. Symptoms such as lethargy, difficulty breathing, visible wounds, or unusual behavior can indicate health problems. If you encounter an opossum exhibiting these signs, it is best to contact a local wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian with experience in treating wildlife.

Opossum Rehabilitation and Care

Orphaned Opossums

Orphaned opossums require specialized care to ensure their survival. Wildlife rehabilitators provide the necessary environment, diet, and medical care to help these young marsupials grow and develop properly. If you find a baby opossum, it is crucial to seek professional help rather than attempting to care for it yourself.

Injured Opossums

Injured opossums can often be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Common injuries include being hit by vehicles, attacks from other animals, or human-caused harm. Rehabilitators assess the injuries and provide medical treatment, including surgery if needed, to restore the opossum's health.

Prevention and Coexistence Tips

opossum mom

Preventing Opossum Intrusion

To prevent opossums from entering your home or property, take the following measures:

  • Secure Trash Bins: Use animal-proof lids on trash bins to prevent opossums from foraging for food.
  • Seal Entry Points: Inspect your home for any gaps or openings and seal them to prevent opossums from entering attics or crawl spaces.
  • Remove Food Sources: Avoid leaving pet food or birdseed outside overnight, as these can attract opossums.

Creating a Wildlife-Friendly Yard

Creating a wildlife-friendly yard can encourage opossums and other beneficial wildlife to visit without causing conflicts. Consider planting native plants that provide food and shelter, and provide a water source such as a birdbath. Avoid using pesticides and other chemicals that can harm wildlife.

Understanding Opossum Behavior

Social Structure

Opossums are generally solitary animals, except during mating season and when mothers are caring for their young. Understanding their social structure can help in predicting their behavior and managing their presence around your property.


Opossums communicate through a variety of vocalizations, body postures, and scents. They may hiss, growl, or make clicking sounds to communicate with each other or to ward off potential threats. Observing these behaviors can provide insights into their emotional state and intentions.

The Importance of Opossums in Research

Biomedical Research

Opossums have contributed significantly to biomedical research. Their unique immune system and resistance to certain diseases make them valuable in studying human health conditions. Research on opossums has provided insights into areas such as infectious diseases, cancer, and aging.

Conservation Studies

Studying opossums also helps conservationists understand the broader impacts of environmental changes. By monitoring opossum populations and health, researchers can gain insights into ecosystem health and the effects of climate change.

Cultural Significance of Opossums

Folklore and Myths

Opossums have a rich presence in folklore and myths across various cultures. They are often depicted as cunning or resourceful animals, reflecting their adaptive nature. Understanding these cultural narratives can enhance our appreciation of opossums and their place in human history.


In some cultures, opossums symbolize resilience and survival due to their ability to thrive in diverse environments and their unique defense mechanisms. This symbolism can inspire a greater respect for these often-misunderstood creatures.

Professional Opossum Trapping Services

If you are experiencing issues with opossums on your property, it is essential to seek professional help. 

Critter Stop is a highly reputable wildlife removal company that specializes in humane opossum trapping and removal. 

With a commitment to high-quality work and excellent customer service, Critter Stop has earned fantastic reviews from satisfied customers. 

Their expert team can safely and effectively remove opossums from your property while ensuring the well-being of the animals and preventing future intrusions.

Contact us at (214) 234-2616 to get a free estimate of our services. 

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Lee Gorman
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