Virginia Opossum - Didelphis virginiana
The Virginia opossum is North America's only marsupial. A marsupial is an animal with a pouch. The opossum has been around for at least 70 million years and is one of Earth's oldest surviving mammals!
The Virginia opossum is found in most of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains and on the West Coast. It is also found in Mexico, Central America, and in British Columbia .
A Virginia opossum female may have as many as 25 babies, but she usually has 7-8. The reason opossums have so many babies to insure that some of them survive. Like most marsupials, opossums are very small when they are born - about the size of a bean.
The babies climb up the mother's fur and into her pouch where they find a teat. Some babies do not find their way to the pouch and die. If they make it to the pouch, only babies who find one of the thirteen teats survive. They stay in the pouch and suckle for 55-60 days. Then they move out of the pouch and spend another four to six weeks on their mother's back. In some parts of their range, females have three litters a year.
The Virginia opossum has many behavioral adaptations it uses to survive. When threatened, it exhibits behaviors like running, growling, belching, urinating, and even defecating. Sometimes it "plays possum" and rolls over, becomes stiff, and drools. Its breathing becomes slow and shallow. This coma-like state can last up to four hours. Some predators will think the opossum is dead and go away!