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  • Chris Vera Zelada

Amazing American Opossum

By Chris Vera Zelada

Image credit is Cody Pope, obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Special to the Enterprise


Did you know that the American opossum is the only marsupial within the United States. Opossums are part of the Didelphidae family and have super interesting facts about them. One other fact about the American Opossum is that they are the only mammal in the United States that can use their tails as ‘hands’ to grasp things, these types of tails are called prehensile tails. They are also the only mammals with four fingers as well as a hind thumb that functions just like a human thumb.


Many describe the American opossum as a cat-sized rat. Their facial features consist of pure white fur, 4 rows of whiskers, pink nose, and small very dark eyes. For the most part opossums are calm creatures but of course they are not afraid to show their sharp teeth and can be quite ferocious if they are provoked or feel threatened. An interesting feature about opossums is that they have the smallest brain-to-body ratio, however what they lack in intelligence they compensate with their acute sense of smell and hearing.


Normally the habitats of opossums are woodland, farmland, and suburban neighborhoods that contain water in close proximity. Despite its variety of habitats opossums are very skillful in acclimating to a variety of habitats. If the area contains any food, water and den then it can be a place in which one may be able to find an opossum lurking nearby. Since they are omnivores, they are not restricted to meat nor plants as they can eat both.


One of the key characteristics of an opossum is that it plays dead to prevent itself from being eaten by predators. They have evolved this trait so well that when an opossum is playing dead or in its catatonic state, they are incapable of feeling anything or flinching. This means that no matter how much you shake, poke or try to revive an opossum they will not budge and keep playing “possum” until they feel they are safe.



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