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Discover Nature: Opossums

Missouri Department of Conservation

This week on Discover Nature, we take a look at Missouri’s cousin to the kangaroo. 


The Didelphis virginiana, or the Virginia opossum, is the only marsupial found in Missouri.  These furbearers grow to 2-3 feet in length (including their 9-15 inch-long tails).  They prefer wooded areas near streams for habitat, though they’re common across the state and in urban areas.  


Opossums start breeding in February.  They complete a 12-13-day gestation period by the end of this month, giving birth to litters of young – each, blind, and less than a half inch long.  At birth they make their way to their mother’s fur-lined pouch where they nurse until they are weaned in May.  


Despite their often ominous hissing when confronted, opossums pose little danger to humans.  In fact, opossums feed on many insects considered injurious by farmers and they also perform an important ecosystem function by feeding on carrion.  Opossums fall prey to foxes, bobcats, owls, and other predators.  


Learn more about the Virginia opossum with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide


Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Kyle Felling was born in the rugged northwest Missouri hamlet of St. Joseph (where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended). Inspired from a young age by the spirit of the early settlers who used St. Joseph as an embarkation point in their journey westward, Kyle developed the heart of an explorer and yearned to leave for adventures of his own. Perhaps as a result of attending John Glenn elementary school, young Kyle dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but was disheartened when someone told him that astronauts had to be good at math. He also considered being a tow truck driver, and like the heroes of his favorite childhood television shows (The A-Team and The Incredible Hulk) he saw himself traveling the country, helping people in trouble and getting into wacky adventures. He still harbors that dream.
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