Possums have adapted well to the expansion of human population. Dense urban environments bring an abundance of shelter as well as food sources. They are also sometimes referred to as Opossums.
They will live under a deck, in underbrush, or even a hollow log. They are generally nomadic creatures. They do not spend much time in one place preferring to move every three or four days. In fact, it may not spend more than several nights in one location. They prefer to move often unless there is a great deal of food available along with water. They will pad their nest with leaves or grass.
What do possums eat?
Possums have a very varied diet. They are constantly scrounging for food. They do not store food in cache locations the way that squirrels do. They also do not carry much body fat. Basically they will eat whatever is available including fruit, snakes, insects, slugs, eggs, rats and mice, fish, frogs and the meat of other dead animals. Possums are immune to most snake venom which is good since snakes are on the menu.
In urban areas they will forage for food that consumers put out for their pets, including birdseed, dog and cat food. They have been known to get into the garbage on garbage night competing with raccoons who also may be in the neighborhood. Possums have 50 teeth, most of which are for crushing or grinding their food.
Marsupial or Mammal?
Possums are considered to be marsupials. They will carry their young in a uterus just like other mammals. Once the babies are born they are carried in an external pouch until they are old enough to travel on their own. The kangaroo and the koala of Australia are actually distant cousins.
Possums are generally nocturnal animals and will travel several kilometers while foraging at night. They can climb fences and trees to get away from predators or to find food. They swim very well and can swim with their babies in their pouch. The pouch closes so tightly that they will not even get wet. Many people have the incorrect belief that they hang by their tails. This is simply not true. They are solitary animals except during mating season.
A Possums front feet have five fingers, while their rear feet have four fingers and an opposing thumb. Only humans and primates have opposing thumbs. This provides them with dexterity that many animals do not have.
Possums will play dead if they are threatened. If they cannot escape, they will fall down and play dead. They stick their tongue’s out, they will drool, excrete urine and feces and emit a green fluid from behind their tails that makes them smell like spoiled meat. Most of their predators will leave them alone at this point. If you see a possum in this dead looking state, leave it alone. It may actually be still alive and will revive itself at some point. This is the main reason they are called possums.