Find the best places to hunt Opossum in Canada and discover the Opossums' Physical Description, Range, Habitat, Food Source, Breeding Habits, and Status. 

Provinces with Opossum Hunting

Province / Territory

Species

Season

Nunavut

Absent

 

Northwest Territories

Absent

 

Yukon

Absent

 

British Columbia

Present

Season Available 

Alberta

Absent

 

Saskatchewan

Absent

 

Manitoba

Absent

 

Ontario

Present

Season Available 

Quebec

Present

 

New Brunswick

Absent

 

Nova Scotia

Absent

 

Prince Edward Island

Absent

 

Newfoundland

Absent

Virginia Opossum - Didelphis virginiana

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Virginia Opossum:

Virginia Opossum Range Map of Canada 

Opossum Range map of canada 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

 

Here in Canada the Opossum does not have much of a range. It is only found in South western Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia where it is considered an exotic species.

This species of mammal is not native to Canada, it is only found now due to the expansion of its range into Canada from the United States from which it was introduced during the Great Depression years.

This is a very adaptable land based mammal that is able to exist in any situation that ranges from arid climates to climates with moderate amounts of moisture. However, preference is given to areas where permanent water is available. Like those areas around streams and swamps in woodland forests. But this does not rule out rural areas.

This species does not hibernate but it does try to stay sheltered during cold spells.

This mammal is exceptionally opportunistic and will choose to den in abandoned burrows, buildings, hollow logs, and tree cavities.  Its’ feeding habits and high rate of regeneration has aided this species to be successful and to be able to expand on its range.

Description of Virginia Opossum:

 Virginia Opossum

Opossum 
Virginia Opossum by Greg Schechter - Flickr 

The verbiage “opossum” comes from the Algonquian language and means "white animal" and in some regions it may be referred to simply as a "possum". It is also the only known marsupial (a mammal that has a pouch for carrying its young in) that resides in North America north of the Mexican border.

It is a solitary, nocturnal, non migrating, tree climbing mammal that will have an average home range of 11.5 acres in size. Its peak period of activity is from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM and travelling distance from its nesting site will range 2,000 to 3,200 ft (609.6 to 975 meters). However, this mammal is also considered to be somewhat of a nomad in that it has a habit of changing its home range every six months to a year.

The body of this mammal to me resembles that of an overgrown rat. Male members of the species are slightly larger than female members and females also have a fur lined pouch in which they carry their young. Females also have 13 nipples that are positioned in a circle of 12 with one in the centre. Fur body colouring can appear to be a light brown to a light grey with a sprinkling of white through out and the face in either case will be white with furless black coloured ears. The muzzle or snout of this mammal is long with a flat pink nose at the very end and sports long whiskers. The tail is long, thin, hairless, scaly looking and is capable of grasping branches as well as being able to carry objects. To top it off it has lots of teeth with a dental formula of 5/4, 1/1, 3/3, 4/4 (50).

Members of this species are typically much larger in size as you travel northward in their range. So here in Canada, the expectation would be for full grown members of the species to be at the upper end of the scale for measurements. From the tip of their nose to the base of their tail a specimen could measure anywhere from 13–37 in (35–94 cm) with their tail measuring and adding an additional 8.5–19 in (21.6–47 cm) of length. A male may weigh 1.7 to 14 lb (0.8–6.4 kg) while a female may weigh from 11 ounces to 8.2 lb (0.3–3.7 kg).

This small animal has poor vision but because it is mostly active at night this is not considered to be an issue.

I mentioned that they climb trees, but that does not rule out their ability to forage on the ground as they move about with a slow, awkward stride. For their size they have a very short life expectancy in the wild of only 2 to 3 years of age.

When faced with danger it will put on a ferocious display of hissing, clicking and showing its teeth, growling, and even screeching. But if its sense of danger is heightened enough, it will lapse into an involuntary coma like state where it will appear to be dead. In this altered state the animal will go completely limp, lay on its side with its mouth and eyes open. Its tongue will hang out and their rate of breathing will slow right down to an almost undetectable level. It will even secrete a foul green fluid from its anus. All of this is a defence mechanism that nature has given it to avoid it from being eaten by predators that eat live animals. This state of being generally ends when the danger has past but it can last up to 4 hours in duration and is the source of the term “playing possum”.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Virginia Opossum:

The Virginia Opossum is considered to be omnivorous because it is a highly opportunistic scavenger that will eat a broad range of plants and animals. Foods include bugs, insects, fallen fruits, grains, small vertebrates, snails, earthworms, snakes, mice, moles, rats, bats, young birds, birds’ eggs, human garbage and road kill. Insects and carrion makes up most of their diet.

The opossum will activity hunt snakes including the Massasauga rattlesnake because it is very resistant to snake venom. 

In captivity it has been noted that the Virginia opossum will also cannibalize an injured opossum although it is unpredictable what the results in the wild would be.

Breeding and Reproduction of the Virginia Opossum:

I have no data for Opossum’s mating in Canada, but I would assume that statistics would be similar to those specimens of the United States. This species is capable of 1 to 3 litters per year but the peak breeding season is from January to July.

The male of the species initiates the mating cycle by attracting a female through clicking noises with his mouth. Once receptive female is found they will engage in a mating period that lasts about 36 hours and following that. The female will reject all other advances by any other male.

The reproductive system of a female Opossum is split into two parts in that she has two vagina, two uterus, and two sets of ovaries. The male also shares this bifid theme in that his penis has two heads.

The gestation period for this mammal is a short 12.5 to 13 days long following which she will conceive on the average 7 to 9 young (joeys). Following birth, the joeys crawl into the mother’s pouch and attach to the nipple of a teat. It should be noted that litters of 20 or 30 dime sized joeys are recorded but the female has only 13 teats that are configured in a circular arrangement with one in the center. So, it is the first 13 young that find a teat that will survive.

The young joeys are completely undeveloped and only weigh approximately .005 oz. (0.16 gm.) at birth. They will then spend the next 50 to 65 days of their lives attached to that teat following that time. They will be about the size of a mouse and emerge from the mother’s pouch and most times ride on her back or be very close.

The Joey’s will continue to nurse from their mother for the next 30 to 40 days after which they will be weaned and be on their own as there is no maternal bond between their mother and themselves.

Sexual maturity for males and female opossum’s is anywhere from 6 to 12 months.

Finally young opossums have a high rate of mortality and it should also be noted that most females only live long enough to have only one reproductive season.

Status of Virginia Opossum

The Virginia Opossum is listed is on the Red List as a species of Least Concern, 2008. Justification for this rating comes from several factors.

This species has no major threats.

It is common through out its range with a density of one per ten acres.

It is able to adapt to human development

Its range is continually expanding.

In some parts of its range it is actively hunted and trapped for food and fur. However, the greatest cause of death seems to be from automobile collisions.

The Virginia opossum is in the middle of the food chain and has many mammals looking for it as prey.

Besides humans: bobcats, coyotes, red foxes, dogs, large owls, and hawks prey on adults. Snakes and smaller birds of prey like falcons will additionally prey on the young besides the fore mentioned predators.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_opossum

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mammals_of_Canada

http://eol.org/pages/328501/details

Background Images

  • Virginia Opossum - Greg Schechter - Flickr
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