What You Need to Know about Baby Opossums
Opossum Mating Season
Breeding season can start as early as December and continue right through to October. Typically, though, most baby opossums are born between February and June. Mature female opossums have a very short gestation period - just 11 - 13 days - and can have up to three litters every year. Each litter typically has 8 - 9 young, but there can be as many as 20. That’s a lot of babies!
Upon birth, baby opossums are not fully developed; they are more like fetuses at this point, and they are no bigger than a dime. The infants go from the birth canal to the mother’s pouch, where they continue to develop. In order to survive, the young must firmly attach to a teat (this also ensures the mother can produce milk). If they do not, or if the mother does not produce enough milk, they will not survive. Out of a litter of 20, for example, about half continue to develop.
After about two and a half months, the young become too big to fit in the pouch. They exit, climb onto their mother’s back, and then she carries them around to look for food. She is also teaching her babies to find food and avoid predators. At three months, they are weaned, and at four and a half to five months, they are ready to be on their own. And in a few months, they’ll start reproducing.
Mother and Baby Opossums in Your Yard
When mothers have young, they cannot run as fast or avoid predators as effectively. They may try to seek safer conditions in which to raise their babies - and this may be your yard, outbuildings, garage, attic, or basement. This can create some problems for you though.
Disease is, of course, a primary concern. While they have exceptionally low rates of rabies (their body temperature appears to be too low to support the rabies virus), they do carry diseases like tuberculosis, relapsing fever, leptospirosis, tularemia, spotted fever, toxoplasmosis, trichomoniasis, and Chagas disease. They can also harbor fleas and ticks - which you can pass onto your dogs and cats - as well as mites and lice.
They can also tear into your trash and pet foods, creating messy situations.
Opossums, though, are excellent at rodent control! So some “pests” do have a silver lining! Taking steps to prevent possums from entering your property, to control them, and to safely remove them is important.
- Keep trash and pet foods either inside (in the garage) or in containers that have tight-fitting lids. Don’t run an all you can eat buffet out of your yard.
- If you garden or have fruit-bearing trees, be sure to pick crops when they are ripe to discourage possums. Pick up and dispose of rotten crops.
- Clear out brush piles and fill in holes under concrete slabs, decks, etc.
- If you have a pet door, secure it at night. Opossums occasionally invite themselves in. They don’t typically stay long (a few nights or so or a bit longer for mothers with babies). If you do find one inside, use a broom to coax it out.
If you need to get possums off your property, contact an experienced wildlife removal service that practices humane techniques to help you deal with your pest problem.
Rid-a-Bug’s staff is fully trained in the humane removal of opossums, as well as other unwanted wildlife. We pride ourselves on delivering fast, effective service, which includes emergency responses when you need to deal with a pest problem immediately.
If opossum breeding season is causing headaches for you, give us a call today!