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The Opossum is North American’s only marsupial. If approached or threatened, the opossum will usually hiss and show its mouthful of teeth. However, if danger persists, opossums will often fall into a state of unconsciousness thus “playing possum.”
Opossums have a heavy set body that resembles a large house cat. It is easily recognized by its white face and large, rounded ears. The foot-long tail is pinkish and naked and the opossum uses it for grasping and climbing. Adults average 10-14 lbs. They don’t live very long, rarely more than two years, three max.
Opossums have been known to get into human garbage, they are scavengers and rarely prey on live animals. Opossums can carry and transmit human diseases such as rabies, as can most mammals.
Opossums, both male and female, can be aggressive when threatened. They use various forms of intimidation to defend themselves but Opossums are well-known for pretending to be dead to avoid being eaten by predators. When an opossum thinks that it is being threatened it will go into a catatonic state where it appears to be dead, they go limp and their breathing becomes almost undetectable. Many predators will not eat prey that is not “alive,” so this little trick can be an effective defense mechanism. They re-awaken when the perceived danger passes.