The North American possum, or opossum as it is more properly called, is the only marsupial (animal with a pouch) found in the United States. Adults grow from 15 to 25 inches long and weigh from 5 to 15 pounds. They have pointed faces, and their fur is usually gray.
Opossums mate only once a year, but they give birth twice, once in the spring, and once in the late summer. Their young are born blind, hairless, helpless, and about the size of a quarter. Upon birth, they immediately make their way into their mother’s pouch.
A female opossum can give birth to up to 25 young at a time, but as the female only has 13 teats, only the first 13 babies to make it into the pouch will survive. The 13 that attach to a teat will spend about two months in their mother’s pouch continuing to mature. After that, they will make their way out of the pouch and spend the next several weeks clinging to their mother’s fur as they ride on her back.
Opossums only live about three years in the wild. They are slow, lumbering animals and are often killed by cars or predators.
Wildlife rescue groups recommend that anyone who finds a dead female opossum immediately check her pouch. Often the young will have survived the event that killed the mother. Anyone who does find surviving young should remove them from the pouch, keep them warm, and call the nearest wildlife rehabilitation center. If there is no rehabilitation center in the area, a vet, a zoo, or even a local animal shelter may be able to help.