What animal is about the size of a cat and pretends to be dead when threatened by another animal or human? The answer is the opossum. Virginia opossums live in northern Virginia.

The opossum has a pointed snout and big round ears that are hairless and almost see-through. Its fur is pale gray to gray black. It has a long tail which it can use to hold onto things. Its feet and hands each have 5 toes. The first toe on each back foot is clawless and opposable. This means that the animal can use its toes like you use your fingers. Opossums have a pouch in which babies are carried. This makes the opossum a marsupial. Few opossums live to the age of 2 and most only survive about one year in the wild.


It spends a lot of time on the ground, but is also a wonderful climber. It has excellent hearing and relies mostly on this sense when hunting.

Opossums eat animals that have been killed in the road, berries, persimmons, corn, insects, mice, moles, frogs, lizards, snakes, plants, and earthworms.

Opossums den in abandoned burrows of groundhogs, skunks, or foxes, or in culverts, woodpiles, brushpiles, or under porches. It usually lives alone. If you see a group of opossums it is probably a mother and her children.

How can you help opossums?

Keep garbage securely closed and pick up litter which might injure an opossum.

If you see a dead opossum in the spring have an adult check to see if it is female because there may be babies in her pouch. Call Wildlife Rescue League’s Wildlife Helpline at 703-440-0800 immediately for more instructions.

Wildlife Rescue League - Viriginia
Wildlife Helpline 703-440-0800