19 Facts About Possums [What Do They Eat, How Long Do They Live and More]

Possums are marsupial mammals that are native to North America and belong to the order Didelphimorphia and family Didelphidae. There are more than 120 species of Possums.

According to Wikipedia, Possums initially originated in South America but later entered North American regions after the ‘Great American Interchange’. These marsupial creatures are also known as Opossums.

However, in North America, they are most commonly referred to as Possums. Similar to North American Opossums, there are arboreal marsupial mammals found specifically in Australasian regions that belong to the suborder Phalangeriformes.

These creatures are also called “Possums” and therefore should not be confused with Possums who are native to America. The Virginia Opossum is the most popular Possum species found in the United States and Canada.

Even though these creatures may seem quite appealing, they are seldom known to carry diseases and spread them.

Let’s explore and discover some interesting and exciting facts about Possums that relate to their lives, livelihood, lifespan, distinctive characteristics, unique features, and peculiarities!

19 Interesting Facts About Possums

This article intends to present the nineteen most important and fascinating facts concerning Possums and relating to their lives, livelihood, feeding habits, lifespan, behavioral traits, nature, habitats, attractions, chief characteristics, distinctive features, and differences with that of Rats.

1. What Do Possums Eat?

Being an omnivorous creature, Possums practically eat anything and everything that is readily available and accessible to them. Their dietary preferences include dead and decaying matter, dead animals, vegetation, rodents, and birds.

Possums have an incredible ability to find food and return to the same food source again. The dietary preferences of Possums consist of fruits, vegetables, dead animals, rodents, insects, birds, and eggs.

They also require high amounts of calcium in their diet for which they even consume the skeletal remains of rodents and other creatures. It is therefore not uncommon to find Possums foraging through garbage disposals.

2. Where Do Possums Live?

Possums generally live in areas that include forests, shrublands, woodlands, mangroves, rainforests, etc. However, Possums have adapted themselves to survive in areas that are close to the cities and suburbs.

Possums generally live in places that are dry, sheltered, and safe for them. They are known to take shelter in the abandoned burrows of other animals, rock crevices, hollow tree trunks, woodpiles, and spaces underneath certain buildings.

In Northern America, the most commonly found Possum is the Virginia Possums that are scattered across the United States and Canada. All other types and species of Possums are generally found in the countries that are in the south of the United States.

3. How Long Do Possums Live?

Possums are known to have a very short lifespan. The average lifespan of Possum is about 1 to 2 years in the wild. However, in captivity, they are known to live longer and survive for about 3 to 4 years on average.

The average lifespan of Virginia Possum, the most popular Possum species found in North America, is generally between 2 to 4 years. The oldest Possum that was kept in captivity was approximately 4 years and 5 months old.

Due to numerous reasons including predators, unavailability of food supplements, and roadkills, Possums generally have a considerably shorter lifespan in the wild than that in captivity.

4. Where and When Do Possums Sleep?

Possums usually sleep inside the dens that they discover in tree hollows, rock piles, and wooden logs. They generally search for a dry, safe, and comfortable area in order to live and seldom reuse the burrows constructed by other creatures as their own dens.

Possums are nocturnal creatures by nature, that is they are mostly active at night, and therefore they tend to sleep mostly during the daytime.

Since Possums are primarily found foraging for food items after dark or at night, they rest and sleep during the daytime in their dens that are seldom in a hollow tree or an area that has been abandoned by other creatures.

5. What Eats Possums?

Possums have numerous natural predators that include Foxes, Coyotes, Bobcats, Wolves, large Owls, Hawks, Cats, Dogs, and other larger creatures.

Baby Possums are also killed and hunted by Cats, Dogs, and a few Bird species. In order to protect themselves from their natural predators, Possums are known to “play dead” since most of the predators won’t have a dead animal for a feast.

6. What Diseases Do Possums Carry?

Possums pose a serious health threat to humans and pets since they are capable of transmitting numerous harmful germs and pathogens.

They become quite dangerous with their ability to transmit serious diseases to people and their pets.

Possums are known to carry and spread some acute diseases including leptospirosis, tuberculosis, spotted fever, toxoplasmosis, trichomoniasis, and Chagas disease. Fleas, ticks, mites, and lice can also be spread by Possums.

7. How Fast Can a Possum Run?

Possums are generally extremely slow runners since they are not naturally equipped to run fast. Normally, Possums can run at an average speed of 4 to 8 mph.

When startled, Possums can move quickly for a short distance, but they aren’t capable of running very fast. Since they run very slowly, their speed generally doesn’t increase more than 8 miles per hour.

8. What Attracts Possums?

Possums are generally attracted towards odorous garbage disposals, uncovered compost heaps, or waste containers left outside. Possums are also attracted towards moist areas as they inhabit areas near water.

Since Possums are omnivores and scavengers at the same time, they tend to feed on anything and everything that is available to them. Therefore anything that they can feed upon can attract Possums. Favorable surviving conditions can also attract Possums.

9. What Is the Difference Between Possum and Opossum?

It may seem quite difficult to differentiate between an Opossum and a Possum because of their similar names and attributes. In addition, Opossums are quite popularly known as Possums in North America. So does this mean that these creatures are the same?

Well, while on one hand, it’s a true fact that Opossums are commonly known as Possums in North America, on the other hand, it should be remembered that both Possums and Opossums are two different marsupial creatures.

Opossums are native to America, but Possums are native to Australia, China, and New Zealand. By knowing their native places we can easily differentiate between the two creatures.

Other differences include their dissimilarities in physical appearances, peculiar tendencies, and behaviors.

Opossums have bare tails while possums have furry tails. Opossums have white faces and coarse fur, whereas Possums have a golden or brown fur coat. Both these creatures react differently to their predators.

10. Where Do Possums Live During the Day?

As mentioned earlier, Possums are nocturnal creatures that forage for food at night and rest or sleep during the day. Possums, therefore, tend to prefer living in their dens during the day.

Possums generally spend their daytime hours resting in hollow tree trunks, rock crevices, underbrush piles, or burrows that have been abandoned by rodents or any other creatures.

They aren’t known to construct their own nests, rather take shelter in dens and burrows that have been constructed by other creatures.

11. How Long Will a Possum Play Dead?

Possums generally “play dead” at the time when they confront their natural predators. Interesting enough is the fact that Possums can continue to “play dead” for a long time lasting for somewhere between 40 minutes to 4 hours!

The activity of Playing dead by Possum is actually an involuntary psychological reaction of theirs that occurs automatically when they are threatened and confronted by their predators.

The genuine stress and shock of encountering the predator makes them traumatized and enter a catatonic state. Surprisingly this can continue for more than 3 hours! Isn’t that amazing?

12. What Time Do Possums Come Out?

Possums generally come out during the nighttime hours since they are nocturnal and they forage for food at night.

However, it is not at all unusual to find Possums roaming around in the streets during the daytime. At times when food is scarce or unavailable, and/or when they have been disturbed during their sleeping hours by other creatures, they can be seen outdoors during the daytime.

Possums generally come out of their dens nearly 30 minutes after sunset and then again at night since they are super active during the night hours.

13. Where Do Possums Live in The Winter?

During the winter months, Possums tend to seek out shelters in order to keep themselves warm and spend most of their time inside their dens.

Although Possums aren’t known to hibernate during the winter months, they reduce their activities considerably depending upon the temperature drop.

Now, as the temperature drops, Possums slow down their movements and tend to stay inside their dens which include hollow trees, brush piles, and abandoned rodent burrows.

They are also known to line up their dens with dry grass and leaves in order to keep themselves warm throughout the winter months.

14. How Far Do Possums Travel?

Possums generally forage for food items near their current location at night. However, they can surely travel long distances, i.e up to 2 miles, in order to search for food.

They have a brilliant capability to remember their location and of returning to the places that they have left behind resulting in futile efforts of people to relocate them.

15. How To Tell the Difference Between Rats and Possums?

Although Possums may look like rodents because of their long faces and rat-like tails, they aren’t rodents at all! It may seem that there are numerous similarities between Rats and Possums, however, their differences make it apparent that both these creatures are uniquely distinct.

The main difference between Rats and Possums is that Rats are rodents but Possums are marsupial creatures.

There are several differences between Rats and Possums on the basis of their physical appearances and behavioral tendencies.

Possums are quite larger in size than Rats and have sharper claws compared to Rats. Possums are genuinely nocturnal creatures but Rats are diurnal and nocturnal at the same time.

While Possums are found mainly in North America, Rats are scattered all across the world except areas with extreme climatic conditions.

16. How High Can a Possum Jump? How High Can Possums Climb?

Possums can utilize their speed and jump about 1m high on average. They aren’t known to jump higher than 1m since they are not excellent jumpers. However, they can easily jump off a fence that is lower than 1m.

Possums are great at climbing and can easily climb up trees, fences, and concrete walls. They can climb a few meters up from the ground but not more than that.

Their physical attributes such as short legs and long tails assist them in climbing. They can climb up more skillfully than rats or any other creature that can climb.

17. Why Are Possums Good for The Environment?

Although criticized for spreading a number of diseases, Possums are however good to have around and also for the environment. Yes, this may sound weird but if thought otherwise, their very characteristics make them excellent creatures to have around in the environment.

Possums are omnivorous creatures and they tend to consume anything that is readily available to them, thus eliminating and eradicating a variety of insects and pests that actually can harm people’s yards.

They hunt and kill mice, rats, and snakes that can seldom prove to be harmful to humans. They also clean up the environment by feeding on dead and decaying matter.

They are also very helpful in controlling the population of ticks. According to ‘Gardening Know How’, a Possums is capable of eliminating over 5,000 ticks from the environment each year.

18. Where Do Possums Build Nests?

Possums don’t construct their own underground burrows or nests, rather they tend to find places that are safe and comfortable for them and take shelter there.

These areas include hollow tree trunks, brush piles, and nests that have been abandoned by other creatures such as squirrels, beavers, or foxes. Although they don’t build their own dens, they prepare the abandoned nest according to their own comfort and needs.

They line up these areas with dry grass, leaves, hay, and soft cotton-like materials in order to protect them and keep them warm and comfortable in the winters.

19. How Long Can Possums Go Without Food?

Possums aren’t known to go without food for a long time. They can’t survive without food supplements for a period longer than 2 to 3 days.

However, they can spend months without water if the temperature is low or their food supplements provide them with an adequate water supply.

Possums, like any other mammals, need to consume an adequate amount of nutrients in order to survive. Without food supplements, Possums aren’t able to satisfy their body’s nutrient requirements and therefore they die primarily because of malnutrition and starvation.