What Does A Possum Look Like? Learn About The Appearance

Supriya Jain
Sep 01, 2023 By Supriya Jain
Originally Published on Nov 11, 2021
Edited by Jade Scott
Fact-checked by Nishtha Dixit
Big Googly Eyed Possum, Australia

Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana) are known to 'play possum' where they mimic being dead to tackle situations where they feel they can't escape.

This is a strange behavior of the Virginia opossum that they use to deal with the threat. These wild animals are also known for their ability to spread rabies.

Opossums are a species of marsupial. These marsupials are native to New Zealand, Australia, and China and are also found in North America.

These animals are considered to be one of nature’s best vacuum cleaners because they clean up the environment by eating dead animals. They can also eat up to 5000 ticks in just one season.

Their tail serves many purposes other than just being a tail.

They can use their tail to carry leaves for making a nest, they can use their tails to hang upside down from a tree branch, and their tail also acts as an extra limb while climbing the trees. In the U.S., you need a wildlife rehabilitation license to keep these marsupials as pets.

Read on for some interesting fun facts about opossums and their diet. Afterward, be sure to check out our answers to what is a group of bats called and what is a group of penguins called.

What do baby possums look like?

Have you seen the movie Ice Age? The two mouse brothers in that movie are actually opossums.

Opossums, also called possums, are very strange, gray creatures. They do not give birth to a fully developed baby. When a possum is born, it is about the size of a honey bee or about the size of an adult’s thumbnail.

Unlike other mammals, they are still embryos when they are born, just one month old. Possum babies spend their time in their mother’s pouch until they are big enough to find and get food on their own. The mothers carry the babies like kangaroos.

Baby possums look like very small mice. They look so cute and small! A full-grown opossum is the size of a house cat, but a newborn baby possum is only the size of your thumb. If you hold a baby opossum in your hand, even your small hands will feel gigantic compared to it.

What does a possum look like at night?

Possum appearance is somewhat similar to mice, just the size of a cat. They have a long tail without hair, just like that of a mouse. These nocturnal animals have a pointed face or mouth with a flat nose, sharp teeth, and a hairy body.

Opossums have big, hairless ears. They generally have gray-colored fur, but can also have red or brown fur coats. The opossums found in North America are bigger in size as compared to the ones found in the tropics.

These animals have two small shiny eyes which shine so brightly in the night. If you see a possum at night in the dark with a flashlight pointing towards it, then you can see how bright these can be.

These eyes can also terrify you in the dark. Opossums are nocturnal animals so it is more likely to see an opossum at night than in the day. An opossum can be found during the day, however, especially in the winter season.

(Virginia opossums are not native to the Western U.S.)

What does a dead possum look like?

You can find dead opossums anytime. This is because they pretend to be dead whenever they feel threatened. When they feel that someone is about to harm them, they start 'playing possum'. Playing possum means they start to pretend they are dead.

They can even make themselves smell like a dead animal which makes others think that they are dead. Assuming they are dead, the predators leave them and they are saved from the threat in wildlife.

Opossums are very good at mimicking death and that makes it quite difficult for humans to know whether their pets are actually dead or not. A threatened opossum just lies on the ground with its mouth open and stops every movement to pretend dead.

The feet of an opossum curl inwards into tiny balls and its body gets stiff. This animal then releases the smell of a dead animal to appear like it is actually dead. The predators of opossum do not like to eat dead animals.

How To Identify A Possum

Opossums can be identified by their nest, droppings, and footprints. These marsupial species build their nests with sticks, dry leaves, or whatever they feel like using. They usually make their den in tree hollows or in abandoned dens.

Possums also make dens under porches and decks, unlike birds, which make nests on the branches of trees. If you find a nest in or near these areas, it probably belongs to an opossum.

Their footprints look very similar to human babies. When they walk, they spread their toes to walk swiftly, which makes the marks like human beings but they do not look exactly like humans. There is an odd separation between the forefingers and the thumb so you can identify whether footprints are from human babies or opossums.

Opossums can also be identified by their droppings (their poop). Opossum droppings are of average size.

They generally like to poop near or in protected areas such as under a bush. If you find poop in this kind of area and aren't sure whether it is an opossum or not, be careful. The poop of possums contains bacteria that can cause many serious bacterial diseases, like rabies, in humans.

Is it bad to have a possum in your yard?

Now that you know how you can identify the presence of opossums in your yard, let’s see whether it is good or bad to have opossums in your yard. Everything has its own pros and cons, and so do opossums in your garden.

The biggest benefit of having opossums in your yard is that they are known to eat pests and insects. These animal species are natural pest control. They can protect your yard and house from pest diseases without any fee.

The biggest problem with having opossums in your yard is garbage and fecal matter. Their poop contains various bad bacteria which is very harmful to humans.

The most common bacterial infection caused by possum poop (other than rabies) is leptospirosis. This disease has symptoms similar to flu but is far more dangerous than that. It has the capacity to damage your kidneys, liver, and respiratory system.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what does a possum look like then why not take a look at are wolverines dangerous, or possum facts.

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Written by Supriya Jain

Bachelor of Commerce, Master of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

Supriya Jain picture

Supriya JainBachelor of Commerce, Master of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

As a skilled member of the Kidadl team, Shruti brings extensive experience and expertise in professional content writing. With a Bachelor's degree in Commerce from Punjab University and an MBA in Business Administration from IMT Nagpur, Shruti has worked in diverse roles such as sales intern, content writer, executive trainee, and business development consultant. Her exceptional writing skills cover a wide range of areas, including SOP, SEO, B2B/B2C, and academic content.

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Fact-checked by Nishtha Dixit

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Nishtha Dixit picture

Nishtha DixitBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Nishtha is an experienced SEO writer and editor, with a passion for writing and self-expression. She is currently pursuing an undergraduate major in Literature and Communication and a minor in Political Science from the University of Delhi. Nishtha has completed a certificate master course in English from the British Council and has been appointed as the editor for the bi-monthly magazine of the University of Delhi.

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