What’s a Baby Opossum is Called & 4 More Amazing Facts!

Written by Sadie Dunlap
Published: December 14, 2021
Image Credit Indra Gallery/Shutterstock.com
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From natural immunity to having Spiderman-like qualities, baby opossums are incredibly unique creatures that also happen to be very small. Despite their tiny size, their abilities pack a serious punch.

Let’s jump into 5 cool facts and cute pictures that all revolve around baby opossums!

#1: Baby Opossum is Called a Joeys!

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Baby opossums are known as joeys.

Evelyn D. Harrison/Shutterstock.com

A baby opossums is called a joey! All species of marsupials have young called ‘joeys’ and possums are no exception to this rule. If you’re wondering, baby marsupials are called ‘joeys’ because it sounds like the Aboriginal word for ‘little one.’

Adult males are called jacks and adult females are called jills. A group of baby opossums is called a passel. Opossums share their baby names with kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, and wombats.

#2: Opossum Joeys are ‘Night Owls’

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Opossum joeys are nocturnal creatures.

Jay Ondreicka/Shutterstock.com

Baby possums are near the bottom of the food chain, which means they have plenty of predators in the wild. Because of this, they must get creative when it comes to protecting themselves from predators. One of the major evolutionary traits that help possums in this area exists in the time of day they are most active.

Baby possums are nocturnal, which means they spend most of their waking hours in the evening. Their eyesight is extremely poor, which means they must rely on their hearing and sense of smell to survive. Despite their weaknesses, opossum joeys are incredibly adaptable, and quickly learn from their mothers how to survive and thrive in the wild.

#3: Opossums Babies Can Play Dead

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Opossums play dead by instinct and cannot control when they freeze up.

Tim Harman/Shutterstock.com

In the wild, opossums are usually prey and not predators. Because of this, they have evolved the trick to play dead. This defense mechanism provides a wonderful way for opossums to stay safe without engaging with predators, which would likely end in their demise.

So, what does it look like when an opossum plays dead? They fall over, stiffen up, and remain motionless. Many think this is a voluntary action, but it’s quite the opposite. When an opossum is under extreme stress, it will pass out or faint. It has absolutely no control over when this occurs. 

Although the opossum can’t play this trick on command, it certainly has its benefits. Playing dead prevents interactions that could result in the animal’s death. Since the action is involuntary, joeys don’t need to rely on their decisions to protect themselves. Instead, their bodies are hard-wired to protect them at the first sign of danger. It’s like a built-in security system that never malfunctions – pretty cool, right?

#4: Baby Opossums Catch a Ride on their Mom

Opossum joeys ride on their mother’s back for protection after coming out of her pouch.

Indra Gallery/Shutterstock.com

For the first three months of their lives, opossums stay in their mother’s pouch. This allows them to be protected and to nurse simultaneously. After three months, they come out and explore. However, they still frequently catch a ride on their mom’s neck and back. Opossum moms will carry up to 15 babies on their neck, back, and body – talk about dedication!

#5: Opossum Joeys are Immune to Venom

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Oppossums babies are immune to snake venom.

David Louis Econopouly/Shutterstock.com

Did you know that poison won’t bother an opossum? This is because opossums make a special protein that is similar to an antivenom. The protein in the opossum’s blood neutralizes the venom and has been used to help develop antivenom since the 1940s. 

But why does a possum need an antivenom? The answer is simple – to protect them from a major predator: snakes. If bitten, they suffer minor injuries of the bite, but the venom doesn’t harm the opossum. Baby opossums are also immune to venom from scorpions, bees, and many more venomous animals.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How much do baby opossums weigh?

When baby opossums are born, they are as small as a bee and weigh in around .10 to .15 grams. By the time they’re 3 months old, they will gain nearly 150 more grams, which is still very small and under a pound. Adult possums weigh anywhere from 5-15 pounds, including their tails.

What do baby opossums eat?

They depend on nursing the milk up until they are strong enough to explore outside of the pouch. Once outside the pouch, a baby opossum will eat just about anything that comes its way including bugs, fruits, and even trash!

Are baby opossums mammals?

Baby opossums are marsupials, which are a class of mammals. In fact, they are the only marsupials in North America. Marsupials do not have placentas, and therefore have a pouch for their young to live in for around three months after birth. During those three months, the baby opossum nurses its mother’s marsupial milk, which is completely different from other mammal’s milk.

Where do baby opossums live?

Opossums prefer to live in places that have some moisture, such as streams and marshes. Although they aren’t very picky about where they make their home, they do enjoy hanging out in trees and snacking away on bugs. They like to make burrows so they can slow in the winter and stay warm, but they do not hibernate. 

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