Didelphis virginiana

Common Names: Virginia opossum, North American opossum, possum, tlacuache
Category: Mammals
Sub-category: Marsupials

The only marsupial found in North America north of Mexico. A solitary and nocturnal animal about the size of a domestic cat, and thus the largest opossum. Virginia opossums can vary considerably in size, with larger specimens found to the north of the opossum's range and smaller specimens in the tropics. They measure 13 to 37 inches long from their snout to the base of the tail, with the tail adding another 8.5 to 19 inches. Their coats are a dull grayish brown, other than on their faces, which are white. Opossums have long, hairless, prehensile tails, which can be used to grab branches and carry small objects. They also have hairless ears and a long, flat nose. Opossums have 50 teeth, the most out of any North American mammal, and opposable, clawless thumbs on their rear limbs. Opossums have thirteen nipples, arranged in a circle of twelve with one in the middle.

It is familiar to many North Americans as it is often seen near towns, rummaging through garbage cans, or lying by the road as roadkill. Opossums are nocturnal and generally only seen after dark, though they can occasionally be found wandering during the day. The are common in both urban areas, rummaging for food near trash bins as well as the woods.

Edible Notes: The opossum was once a favorite game animal in the United States, in particular in the southern regions which have a large body of recipes and folklore relating to it. Early versions of the Joy of Cooking included recipes for opossum. Many recipes can be found online.
Warnings: While they are capable of giving a bad bite, they generally avoid humans, are not aggressive, and do not generally carry serious pathogens such as rabies.