Virginia Opossum


The Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is not native to southern California. It is primarily nocturnal, an omnivore, and will eat most anything, from plants and fruits to insects and garbage. Opossums will scavenge urban areas overlapping with other scavengers like coyotes and will often be killed by automobiles while moving through these urban environments.

Virginia opossums are unique in that they have an opposable hallux. Similar to a human thumb, the hallux is on the opossum’s rear feet and allows it to grasp branches and climb trees. It is also known for its prehensile tail. A prehensile tail is adapted for wrapping around things like branches, allowing it to hang upside down for short periods of time.

When threatened, the Virginia opossum can fight off predators in several ways like growling, running, or even urinating. It is known to play “possum” where it goes into a coma-like state where it becomes stiff, its breathing becomes shallow, and it starts to drool. 

Listen to this Virginia opossum vocalization. Have you heard these before?

To learn more about the Virginia opossum, visit National Geographic Magazine.