If you find a baby opossum …

Young opossums travel with their mother and are dependent on her care.

A young opossum is curled up and sleeping on a blanket

Virginia Opossums breed two or three times each year, from February through September. Opossums are the only marsupial in the United States; babies are born after a short 13-day gestation period, and crawl into their mother’s pouch, where they nurse continuously and grow for the next two months. The average litter contains six to nine babies, though opossums may have as many as 13 babies.

After two months, baby opossums open their eyes, and after a couple more weeks, start to emerge from the pouch and ride around on their mother’s back. Opossums are independent at about four months of age.

If you find a baby opossum, do any of the following apply?

  • It is bleeding, has an open wound, or has a broken bone.
  • It's been in a cat's or dog's mouth.
  • It's covered in fly eggs (these look like small grains of rice).
  • It's cold, wet, or crying nonstop.

If YES, contact your nearest wildlife veterinarian or rehabilitator. Do not give the baby food or water!

If NO, opossums that are at least eight inches long from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail (do not include the tail) and weigh more than 7.25 ounces or 200 grams are old enough to survive on their own in the wild and do not need human intervention.

If the opossum does not meet these size and weight criteria, immediately contact a state-permitted wildlife rehabilitator. Always wear gloves when handling young (even infant) opossums; latex medical-type gloves should be worn for very young infants; leather gloves should be worn for any eyes-open opossum. Do not have any contact with saliva from the infant. 

Each animal's nutritional, housing, and handling requirements are very specific and must be met if they have any chance of survival. Inappropriate food or feeding techniques can lead to sickness or death. Raising a wild mammal in captivity is illegal unless you have a state permit. For information on how you can become a permitted wildlife rehabilitator, visit our Wildlife Care Academy and contact the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources or your state's wildlife agency.

Safely Checking Deceased Adult Opossums

A gloved finger is reaching into an opossum's pouch, which is filled with at least five very young hairless opossums. Orphaned opossum babies are often found crawling around next to their dead mother (often after the mother has been killed by a car) and will not survive at this age without human care. Surviving infants may also be inside a deceased mother’s pouch.  

Wearing gloves, check the pouch for any signs of living babies, only if it can be checked safely while you are free from motor vehicle danger. If babies are present and attached to the mother, place the deceased opossum in a box and bring it directly to the nearest permitted wildlife rehabilitator so the infants can be safely removed.