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Do you think opossums are awesome? Or do you shiver every time you hear the word opossum? Opossums are incredibly unique animals that often get a bad reputation for sneaking around late at night, smelling bad and pretending to be dead. However there are many reasons to respect this rather strange animal. . .

The opossum is the only native marsupial to North America–which means that it is like a kangaroo whose babies grow up inside a pouch before they are big enough to go out and explore the wild world! Unlike kangaroos opossums can have more than one baby at a time, in fact awesome mother opossums can have up to twelve babies each year!  That is a lot of babies to provide for. And mama opossums will teach their babies everything they know.

Avi the Opossum and Animal Ambassador at the Natural History Museum.

Does that mean baby opossums go to school? Not exactly, but these little animals will, like us, learn from observation! If you’ve ever seen a opossum covered in little baby opossums, that’s exactly what is happening–mama opossum is teaching her babies how to survive in the wild. Opossums are omnivores which mean they eat meat and vegetables, though different species of opossums will have more specific preferences.

Now opossums are not native to the West Coast, they originally came from the East Coast, but were introduced to the West Coast because people thought they would make good pets or good cheap meat. . . and opossums were not good for either. President William Howard Taft attempted to re-invent the “Teddy Bear” Craze that Theodore Roosevelt had made iconic using an opossum. However the opossum character was largely rejected by people because of the public perception of the animal. The term “playing opossum” comes from their survival technique–where when they are threatened or harmed they will mimic the appearance and even SMELL of a dead animal! Sometimes it can take up to 4 hours for them to “wake up” from their opossum faint.

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