Opossum Behavior & Habits

Opossum Behavior & HabitsOpossum on a porch or deck looking cautiously at the camera.

Opossums are often misunderstood creatures historically found all over the eastern United States, and more recently on the west coast. They are known for their strange appearance, elusive behavior, and being the only marsupial native to the country. Here are some of their common habits and behaviors.

  • Opossums are nocturnal animals. This not only helps them avoid diurnal predators but also provides a stealthy advantage when foraging for food. It also limits their contact with humans.


  • Opossums have proven highly adaptable to urban and suburban environments, thriving amidst human-altered landscapes.


  • They tend to be solitary, and typically only form social bonds during the mating season.


  • Opossums are generally nomadic, moving from one area to another in search of food and suitable shelter. They rarely stay in one place for more than a couple of weeks, but beneath porches and crawlspaces can be attractive dens for them.


  • When threatened, opossums may undergo an involuntary reflex action that puts the animal in a catatonic state resembling death. This state can take minutes or hours to recover from, and the opossum will become stiff, pull back their lips, and secrete a rancid-smelling fluid from their anal glands to deter predators.


  • In the wild, opossums are not strong diggers. However, as skilled climbers (thanks to their semi-prehensile tail), they like to build nests in tree-hollows or repurpose abandoned nests to escape ground predators.


What do Opossums Eat?

Opossums are omnivorous scavengers, meaning they will eat anything from ticks to roadkill to garden produce to pet food. They are not picky in the slightest, and their dietary behaviors play a large role in regulating insect populations and disposing of animal carcasses.

Because of this variability in their diet, what they eat depends heavily on their habitat, the season, and whatever food source they have access to.

Here are some common foods opossums eat:

  • Insects
  • Worms
  • Pet food
  • Carrion
  • Berries
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Reptiles
  • Amphibians
  • Birds
  • Eggs of small animals
  • Small mammals