Garden of Eatin' / Pests & Diseases

Baby Opossums

Baby opossums

I don’t know if our backyard has become a breeding ground for opossums or what.

A couple months ago, we found a baby opossum in the chicken coop. We think he’s an orphan, as we’ve seen him a few more times foraging alone at night. We’ve seen a handful of adult opossums as well, and though we’re never sure if they’re the same ones, at least one or two have taken up residence in our yard and up our tree. And it seems those opossums have been gettin’ busy.

Last week, we set out our Havahart traps to catch a couple of destructive squirrels we’ve been seeing around the garden. Right away, we caught an opossum and released him that night. We reset the trap… and yesterday, we saw that we’d caught another critter.

Opossums in a Havahart trap

But upon closer inspection, we found another opossum in the trap… and not just one opossum, but a mama opossum with seven of her babies!

Opossums in a Havahart trap

The babies must have been clinging to her back while she was roaming the yard, and they’d all become trapped together when she went sniffing for our treats. Or had they all been nestling inside her pouch? (Opossums are the only marsupials in North America; I was intrigued by this fact and found this fascinating photo of ‘possum pups in their mother’s pouch.)

Each baby was about 5 inches long from nose to rump, with tiny pink noses and tiny pink hands, and tender little ears and tails. They were the most adorable things I’d ever seen… I almost wanted to keep them as pets!

Baby opossums

All seven babies were piled on top of each other, clinging tightly to their mama or their siblings, yawning and squirming and sleeping. Such precious little things.

Opossum family

Opossum family found in a trap

Baby opossums sleeping

Baby opossums

These two siblings were especially sweet.

Opossum siblings

We gave them a small bowl of water and covered the cage with a towel to keep them calm. That night, we released the family in a nearby nature reserve. Since it’s still mating season for the opossum, I wonder how many more babies we’ll see this summer (and hopefully, not in our traps).

Baby opossum drinking from a bowl

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I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »

27 Comments

  • James Morrison
    September 7, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Here in New Zealand, they are one of our worst pests. They kill masses of birds, strip our bush, spread bovine tuberculosis amongst our cattle and breed like rabbits! Sorry, but our first instinct is to grab a rifle whenever we see them. Ours are very aggressive. If we caught a couple in a cage, they’d be tearing strips out of each other. We don’t have squirrels however 🙂

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      September 8, 2013 at 7:53 pm

      Opossums (in the Western Hemisphere) actually belong to a different family than possums (in the Eastern Hemisphere). Ours are usually not aggressive unless provoked or threatened. Typically, they run away or play dead when encountered.

      Reply
  • Candace
    July 25, 2013 at 9:55 am

    I did some research on possum n learn tht they r the most harmless wildlife n do not carry rabies, far better ( they eat all of d harmful critters like snails or slugs in ur yard) n harmless than mean but cute wildlife like a squirrel

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      July 25, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      They’re definitely very tame… In our yard, the squirrels and raccoons are the troublemakers.

      Reply
  • Cary Bradley
    July 25, 2013 at 6:13 am

    Too, too, too sweet. We had one ‘play possum’ with our cat in the front yard in Whittier years ago. Cat lost interest, walked away, soon possum walked away too. Cutest thing!

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      July 25, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      I’ve read that “playing possum” is an involuntary reaction… and that they’ll even emit a foul smell to make it seem like they’re a rotting carcass. Nature is so fascinating!

      Reply

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