Virginia opossums are nocturnal animals, usually active only at night. They use an excellent sense of smell to find food and sensitive whiskers to find their way in the dark. With 50 sharp teeth, an opossum can crunch through almost any kind of food—small mammals, insects, snails, even the scraps of food we throw away.
The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial species in North America. Its relatives are kangaroos and koalas. Marsupial moms have pouches where babies grow. When born, opossum babies are very small, about the size of a bean.
Although they start out small, opossums grow very quickly. In the wild, they usually live only one to two years. In captivity, somewhere like Lindsay Wildlife where they are protected and receive excellent husbandry (clean living conditions, food, and water) and veterinary care, they can live three to four years.
Lindsay Wildlife has two opossums in the collection. Petunia, who can be seen daily in her enclosure in the Exhibit Hall, was kept as a pet from a young age. After deciding opossums (like all wild animals) do not make the best pets, she was brought to our wildlife hospital. Unfortunately, she is too used to getting food from people to be released to the wild. She has lived at Lindsay since 2016.
And in July of 2018 a tail-less baby opossum was brought to Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital after she was found alone under a deck in Richmond. After examination, it was clear her missing tail was the result of trauma or injury. Opossums have prehensile tails adapted for grasping and wrapping around things like tree limbs. Because this opossum has no tail, which is necessary in the wild for balance and nest building, she would not have survived in the wild and cannot be released. But without it, she makes a perfect animal ambassador. And after a public vote, this sweet girl was given a name: Poppy!