The Opossums biology, reproduction, and life cycle

When do opossums mate?
The opossum mating season is January to July in warmer countries. However, in colder countries, the mating season is smaller due to the shorter springs and maybe from February to June. During this season, the male attracts the female by making clicking sounds with his mouth, among other mating displays and calls. When they mate a litter of up to thirteen pups is raised. But in one year, they do not raise one litter, but may raise up to two or three litters!

How are opossums born?
A female opossum’s reproductive system consists of her external reproductive organs, uterus and her baby pouch. Opossums are marsupials. Therefore, they carry babies in their pouch when they are born. Since opossum females do not have a fully formed placenta, therefore her babies are born at a very young age. At only 12-14 days, they leave the uterus.

How are baby opossums raised?
These tiny helpless beings who can’t see and have little to no fur, crawl into her pouch where they are kept warm by the mother’s heat. The little creatures have to make a long and difficult journey from the birth canal to the pouch. The mother makes this journey easier for them by licking her fur to moisten it. This helps them slide over her fur into her pouch easily. Here they drink milk from her teats. Baby opossums are called joeys, just like baby kangaroos. The number of baby opossums in a litter can be almost 20, but not all of them survive! This is because the number of babies that can attach to a teat is only 13. As they grow too big to fit in her pouch, she will carry them around on her back while she hunts. The baby opossums watch and learn skills such as hunting and escaping predators. If one of the babies gets lost, it will make sneezing sounds for the mother to find it.

What happens when babies grow older?
At 70-125 days, the babies can start eating other foods and come off their mother’s milk. At this stage, they can de-attach from the teat and leave the pouch. They begin wandering around and exploring the world around them. Usually, opossums live alone, but their young are seen roaming randomly until they find someplace to settle. After that, they only appear at night.

What is the opossum’s lifespan?
Opossums do not have very long lifespans. This is unusual for a mammal of such a large size. In the wild, they live for one to two years, but in captivity, they can live up to even four years.

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