FEMALE VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS ARE REPRODUCTIVELY MATURE AT 6 - 10 MONTHS AGE
MALE VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS ARE REPRODUCTIVELY MATURE AT 8 - 9 MONTHS OF AGE
female has body characteristic specific for species perpetuation
external maternity pouch called the MARSUPIUM
the pouch is on the outside of the skin of the abdomen
the pouch is like a pocket
pouch has a lateral opening across the abdomen
from side to side
marsupium pouch is where babies continue to develop after birth
opening of pouch is facing tail
mother has 13 nursing nipples inside pouch
nursing nipples are arranged in a circular pattern with one nursing nipple in the middle
this arrangement allows for the best use of space so the most amount of babies can fit
there is definitely one period of mating for VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS every year
there may be more than one period of mating for some VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS
all females will attempt to mate during the first period of mating
in north .. January - February
in south .. December - January
then the VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS in the south may mate again
in the north may have only the 1 litter
in the south may have up to 3 litters .. March .. May .. August
period of mating is timed so babies as newly weaned young adult VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS will leave mother
when the most food is available
scientists do not know exactly how male and females locate each other
but .. scent marks help males locate females
females in estrus make urine marks when they are actively seeking mates
female in estrus for only 36 hours
however successful mating only can occur during the first 12 hours of this time
VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS have a very brief courtship time
a male approaches a female only in estrus
makes metallic sounding vocal clicking noises
attempts to nuzzle female
if she is receptive they will mate
gestation period for female is 12 - 13 days
short gestation means that the babies are born underdeveloped and finish developing in pouch ..
but they have to travel from the birth canal to the pouch THEMSELVES !!!
mom gives birth sitting up ..
moments before the babies are born she licks a strip of fur from birth canal to pouch opening
this moistened path helps the babies to find their way to the pouch
the moisture helps keep the babies form getting stuck in her fur
the babies are moist and if her fur was dry they could get stuck
the birth period for all the babies lasts for only 5 - 10 minutes ! ! !
THE VIRGINIA OPOSSUM HAS MORE THAN 1 BABY AT A TIME
THE GROUP OF BABIES CALLED A LITTER
A LITTER OF BABIES CAN BE BORN FROM JANUARY - OCTOBER
TIME OF YEAR WHEN LITTER IS BORN DEPENDS ON WHERE MOTHER LIVES
all babies are born very quickly
as soon as the babies are born they crawl from the birth canal opening to the maternity pouch
mom helps guide them to the pouch
babies are born with tiny claws on their little front paws
they use these little claws to grasp and clutch the fur on mom's abdomen to get to pouch
from birth canal opening to maternity pouch is about 3 inches
( BUT THAT IS A HUGE DISTANCE FOR A LITTLE TINY BABY ABOUT THE SIZE OF A KIDNEY BEAN )
the babies locate mom's pouch by scent
mom's pouch has 13 nursing nipples
only 13 babies can be nursed
mom usually has 7 babies
she may have between 5 - 25 babies .. but the most she can raise is 13
VIRGINIA OPOSSUM BABIES ARE BORN VERY EARLY IN THEIR DEVELOPMENT
VIRGINIA OPOSSUM babies are very very very very very tiny !
look a bit more like worms than opossums
shaped like kidney beans
weight at birth .007 ounces
length 7/16 of an inch
width 3/16 of an inch
eyes closed at birth
babies cannot regulate body temperature
the pouch is how they stay warm
the babies ONLY food is their mom's milk
the babies eat ONLY milk for 50 - 70 days
this period of nursing is called the period of lactation
mom VIRGINIA OPOSSUM has special physical adaptation of nursing nipples that helps keep babies constantly attached
when baby gets mouth to a nursing nipple .. the nursing nipple swells inside mouth
the baby VIRGINIA OPOSSUM is then locked on and cannot let go
remain locked for 50 - 70 days
baby VIRGINIA OPOSSUM nurse almost continuously for 50 - 70 days
the routine of baby VIRGINIA OPOSSUM is
EAT SLEEP EAT
EAT SLEEP EAT
repeat ! ! !
baby VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS have special physical adaptation that allows them to nurse almost continuously ..
passage from nasal chamber in snout to lungs for air
passage from mouth to esophagus to stomach for milk
both totally separated from each other
these 2 separate passages enable the baby VIRGINIA OPOSSUM to nurse and breath at same time !!!
without suffocating or drowning !!!!
wow !! SUPER AMAZING !!
BABIES EYES OPEN 3 - 4 WEEKS OF AGE
AT 8 WEEKS BABIES ARE 2 INCHES LONG EXCLUDING TAILS
during entire time of nursing .. mother cleans pouch ..
after 50 days .. babies are able to let go of nursing nipples
the babies remain in the pouch for 3 more weeks
they are able to come out of pouch for first time at about 10 weeks of age
can leave pouch for brief periods
return to nurse
baby is as big as mouse at time he can come out a little bit
at 10 weeks of age babies ..
crawl onto mom
crawl into nest
go into pouch to nurse
stay in nest a bit while mom forages for food
pouch now too small to hold them all
though they still nurse .. they must take turns
now follow mom as she forages
sometimes ride on her back
they practice gripping her tail with their tails
mom holds her tail over her back with tip toward her head .. so babies can grip and hang on with their tails
this practice helps to make their prehensile tails super strong
when babies come out of pouch .. mom pays a lot of attention to them
she makes a clicking sound and they come running to her
at about 12 weeks of age .. they begin to be weaned from eating only mom's milk
when babies leave pouch for last time
stay near mom for about 4 more weeks
as soon as baby young adults can take care of themselves they go off on their own
from the point of mating to time babies are independent young adult VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS
is a time period of 3 1/2 months ...
young adult VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS are first seen on their own in APRIL and MAY
THE VIRGINIA OPOSSUM IS OMNIVOROUS
THE VIRGINIA OPOSSUM EATS ONE OF THE MOST VARIED DIETS OF ALL ANIMALS IN THE WORLD !
first 2 months the babies eat only their mother's milk
their diet is mostly vegetables and fruits
their diet changes with the seasons and with what is available
VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS eat almost any vegetable or animal food
will eventually hunt only adult mice and snakes
the VIRGINIA OPOSSUM is a forager
( FORAGE is to search and look for food )
the VIRGINIA OPOSSUM forages in the layer of leaf litter covering the forest floor
forages in trees for all sorts of food
hunts and searches for food at night
spends a great deal of time foraging
the VIRGINIA OPOSSUM sniffs the air a lot in order to locate all of their foods
in the fall they eat lots of acorns which help them to gain lots of fat
they need to put on a lot of fat to help keep them warm and to help keep them nourished during the winter
VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS DIGEST THEIR FOOD SO WELL THAT VERY LITTLE WASTE IS ELIMINATED
IT'S A FASCINATING FACT !
BIOLOGISTS STATE THAT VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS ARE THE LEAST AGGRESSIVE
OF ALL ANIMALS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD !
SOMETIMES A VIRGINIA OPOSSUM MOTHER WILL CARRY AND CARE FOR BABIES
WHOSE MOTHER HAS DIED
VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS are super excellent climbers
spend most of their time on the ground
when VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS feign death as a defense
they curl their lips back
open their mouths to expose their 50 TEETH
they expose their teeth to protect their delicate and vulnerable throats ! ! !
the VIRGINIA OPOSSUM is the largest member of the opossum family
the VIRGINIA OPOSSUM is NORTH AMERICA'S ONLY MARSUPIAL .. wow !!
VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS can hang upside down by their very very strong tails ! ! !
THE VIRGINIA OPOSSUM HAS MORE TEETH THAN ANY OTHER NORTH AMERICAN MAMMAL !
the VIRGINIA OPOSSUM is nocturnal and active at night
the VIRGINIA OPOSSUM sleeps about 16-20 hours per day
VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS GENERALLY MOVE RATHER SLOW
BUT CAN MOVE REALLY FAST WHEN THEY NEED TO
DO NOT HIBERNATE
live off fat layer accumulated during autumn
during very cold weather can actually lower body temperature
to save energy will enter inactive state for a few days or maybe even a week or two
this state is called a torpor
do not tolerate cold weather very well
VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS that live very far north can get frostbite on their exposed
sparsely furred ears and tail
if cornered by a predator
a VIRGINIA OPOSSUM will fall into what appears to be a coma like state
" playing possum " is NOT A GAME
" playing possum " is DEADLY SERIOUS !
playing possum is the opossum's last chance effort to save its life
many things happen when the VIRGINIA OPOSSUM "plays possum "
falls to one side
body goes limp
mouth falls open
all 50 teeth are exposed
bottom jaw drops onto chest
tongue falls out
releases foul smelling liquid from scent glands
heart rate slows
when mouth falls open .. exposed teeth protect vulnerable throat from predator
may stay like this for several hours or just a few minutes
predator may lose interest and leave
pause long enough to give opossum enough time to get away
scientists do not know how opossums do all this
scientists used to believe that opossums actually went into a coma
but now it is known that they are actually extremely alert at this time
PLAYING POSSUM actually rarely occurs
VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS fall into this state quickly
they can also snap out of this state also very quickly
THE ONLY THING THAT EVERY AMAZING ANIMAL IN THE WORLD HAS TO DO TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE ENVIRONMENT
OF PLANET EARTH IS SIMPLY JUST TO BE ALIVE !
AMAZING PLANET EARTH IS LIKE A HUGE SPORTS TEAM .. WITH ALL THE ANIMALS BEING REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT
MEMBERS OF THE TEAM .. ALL EACH ANIMAL HAS TO DO IS JUST BE HERE !!!
JUST DO WHAT THEY DO NATURALLY .. LIVE THEIR AMAZING LIVES !!! THAT IS ENOUGH !!!
VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS ARE SUPER IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTORS TO THE BIODIVERSITY OF PLANET EARTH
EVERY SINGLE SPECIES IS SUPER SUPER IMPORTANT TO ALL THE REST
THE MORE DIVERSE THE ENVIRONMENT OF PLANET EARTH ..
THE BETTER FOR ALL THE BEINGS THAT LIVE HERE ..
VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS CONTRIBUTE TO THE BALANCE OF NATURE
BY THE EXTREMELY VARIED VARIETY OF FOODS
THAT THEY EAT
THEY EAT ALL SORTS OF BITS OF THIS AND THAT AND PREVENT ACCUMULATIONS OF THINGS THAT
PERHAPS MIGHT NOT BE SO DESIRABLE AS FOOD TO OTHER ANIMALS
HUMAN DRIVEN AUTOMOBILES TRAVEL ON ROADS THAT DID NOT EXIST FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS ..
THE NAME OPOSSUM IS THE NATIVE AMERICAN POWHATAN LANGUAGE WORD FOR THIS ANIMAL
IN 1607 THE DAUGHTER OF KING POWHATAN ..
PRINCESS POCAHONTAS TOLD CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH THAT HER PEOPLE CALLED THIS ANIMAL BY THIS NAME
JOHN SMITH WROTE IT DOWN AS IT SOUNDED AND THE ENGLISH WORD BECAME OPOSSUM
AND HAS STAYED THE SAME SINCE THEN
John Smith wrote in his journal in 1608
" An opassum hath an head like a swine, a taile like a rat, and is of the bignes of a cat.
Under her belly she hath a bagge, wherein she logeth and sucketh her young. "
which means ..
an opossum has a head like a pig, a tail like a rat, and is as big as a cat
below her stomach she has a pouch, where inside her babies lodge and suckle
VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS HAVE LIVED IN VERY MUCH THE SAME WAY SINCE GOD CREATED THEM ..
THEY HAVE TRAVELED THE SAME ROUTES .. FED IN THE SAME WAYS ..
LIVED IN THE SAME FORESTS .. WETLANDS AND MEADOWS ..
NOW .. THESE DANGEROUS AUTOMOBILES TRAVEL AT HIGH SPEEDS AT NIGHT
AND KILL THESE GENTLE LITTLE ANIMALS AS THEY TRAVEL ALONG WILDLIFE CORRIDORS
AS THEY HAVE FOR THESE LAST THOUSANDS OF YEARS ..
HUMAN INTERACTION OFTEN RESULTS IN DEATH
FOR THESE FASCINATING AND WONDERFUL BEINGS THAT GOD MADE TO LIVE ! ! !
the VIRGINIA OPOSSUM is NOT an
endangered .. threatened or vulnerable species
but.. individual opossums are IN DANGER .. encounters with human beings and their
automobiles mean death to these precious gentle beings !!!!! THEY NEED OUR HELP !!!
woodland habitat is IN DANGER of destruction by humans !!!
forests NEED our protection and restoration !!!
27 species of the world's opossums are ENDANGERED
and therefore in GREAT danger
and at GREAT risk of EXTINCTION ! ! !
47 species of the world's opossums are VULNERABLE
and therefore in danger and at risk of EXTINCTION ! ! !
HUMANS DEVELOP LAND AND DO NOT LEAVE AREAS FOR WILDLIFE ..
ANIMALS NEED PLACES TO LIVE ..
NEW HUMAN HOUSE CONSTRUCTION
JUST SIMPLY TEARS UP THEIR HOMES AND THEY HAVE NOWHERE TO GO !!!
VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS NEED TREES TO LIVE IN AND AROUND ..
VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS MAKE THEIR NESTS IN OLD TREES THAT HAVE HOLLOW PLACES IN THE BASE ..
CUTTING TREES DOWN IS REALLY BAD !!!
TREES ARE HOME TO SO MANY ANIMALS !!
THEY NEED THEIR HOMES !!
TREES THAT FALL BECOME HOMES TO MANY ANIMALS ..
THEY ARE OFTEN CLEANED UP AND HAULED AWAY .. ANIMALS NEED THESE PLACES !!
THERE IS A HUGE LACK OF EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE ABOUT VIRGINIA OPOSSUMS
HUMANS HAVE AN INSATIABLE DESIRE TO LIVE AT THE EDGE OF BODIES OF WATER ..
TO POSSESS THE LAND AND THE VIEW .. AND OFTEN DO NOT WANT ANIMALS TO COME AROUND
HUMANS DO NOT NEED TO LIVE RIGHT AT THE WATER'S EDGE ..
VIRGINIA OPOSSUM DO NEED TO LIVE NEAR WATER ! ! ! ! !
HUMANS DO NOT RESPECT ANIMALS ENOUGH !!