How Many Babies Does an Opossum Have?

Written by Laura Dorr
Published: December 11, 2023
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Virginia opossums are solitary creatures and are rarely seen with other opossums. North America’s only marsupials come together just to mate before moving on, leaving the female to carry and raise the babies on her own. But how many babies can one mother opossum handle? Let’s take a look at how many babies an opossum has, and the neat life cycle of these unique marsupials.

When Do Opossums Have Babies?

opossum in tree with babies on its back

Opossum litters vary in size from 1-25.

©Holly Kuchera/

Virginia opossums generally have 1-3 litters per year, beginning in the spring. Opossums begin breeding as early as January, with the first litters typically born in March. After they finish raising their first litter, some females will have a second anywhere between June and October.

If you find a dead opossum on the road any time between January and October, stop and check to see if it is a female. If it is, check her pouch, which is located on her lower abdomen. Oftentimes when an adult opossum is hit by a car, they die of head trauma. While the mother may be dead, the babies can survive. If there are live babies, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for assistance and further instructions.

How Many Babies Does an Opossum Have?

Opossum Baby

Baby opossums stay with their mother until they are around 4 months old.

©Heiko Kiera/

Opossums are marsupials, and almost all of the babies’ development occurs out of the uterus and in the pouch. The gestation of a Virginia opossum is just 10-12 days. Once the babies are born, they must travel from the birth canal up to the mother’s pouch. To make the journey easier, the mother will lick a part in the fur on her stomach to form a path for the babies to follow to the pouch. Once they enter the pouch, the babies latch onto a nipple. Their mouths will form a seal around the nipple (essentially swallowing it) and they will stay attached to it for the next two months.

While opossums can have up to 25 babies, the number that survives is limited by the number of teats. Opossums have 13 nipples and are one of the few mammals to have an odd number of mammary glands. If they do not latch onto a nipple within a few minutes, the tiny babies will die. As a result, only the first 13 to latch on will have the chance to survive. Slower babies or ones that do not make it to the pouch will die quickly. So, while opossums may have more than 13 babies, they can only raise a baker’s dozen at a time. It’s often not an issue, however, as the average litter size is between 9-13.

Opossum Life Cycle

Animals That Play Dead opossum

Opossums are nocturnal but will sometimes come out during the day to forage for food.


For the lucky babies that do latch onto a teat, they still have a lot of growing to do. Born hairless with their eyes and ears sealed shut, baby opossums are about the size of a bumblebee. At birth, they look embryonic and their brains are only 9% developed. The rest of their development occurs within the pouch after they swallow the mother’s teat, which functions almost as an umbilical cord, providing nutrients and antibodies from the mother.

The babies stay attached to their mother for around 60 days, at which point they will begin to let go and move around. At 2.5 months, they will leave the pouch and ride around on their mother’s back as she forages for food. When the babies are 4 months old, they will leave their mother and become independent. They reach sexual maturity at 8-12 months old, so most babies do not reproduce until the spring after their birth at the earliest.

And reproduction is critical to population stabilization. Despite their size, opossums have a very short lifespan, living an average of just 1-2 years in the wild. Because of this short lifespan, opossums need to have many babies to ensure repopulation. While opossums in captivity can live 3-4 years due to the lack of threats and the availability of medical care, the oldest one ever captured in the wild was just 3 years old. The oldest opossum on record in captivity lived to be  6.6 years old.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Holly Kuchera/

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About the Author

Laura Dorr is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on wildlife. Laura has been writing about various topics for over 15 years and holds a Bachelor's Degree in English Composition from Cleveland State University. She is also a licensed wildlife rehabilitator specializing in mammal neonates. A resident of Ohio, Laura enjoys running, caring for wild animals, and spending time with her horde of cats.

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