Most animals during winter go into their dormant or inactive state, known as hibernation. They spend their time inside their natural habitats or dens with their partners. So, do opossums hibernate in winter?
No. Opossums do not go into hibernation. However, opossums are inactive during their winters. Before winter, opossums build dens and make their nest by filling them with leaves to warm their place to sleep. However, opossums are nocturnal. They can come out during cold nights when they are starving.
During this time heart rate of the animal decreases, and they sleep through almost all the period to save energy. Continue reading to find more detail on opossums’ activities during winter.
How Long Do Opossums Hibernate?
Opossums do not hibernate. They stay active during winter as well. There is no marked duration of the inactive state of opossums. They stay indoors when it is cold, and when the weather gets slightly warmer, they come out of their den.
It is common to see opossums roaming around at night all season. The inactivity period of opossums depends upon the number of cold days.
Cold days are harsh on the opossums. Although they spend most of their time sleeping, they still need food, but food sources are limited. So, opossums utilize fat storage to survive. The chilly air can cause frost bites on hairless paws, tails, and ears.
In harsh cold weather, opossums burrow down in their dens. Once the cold subsides, they come out in search of food, mate, and a new place to build a nest.
Where Do Opossums Sleep In Winter?
Opossums sleep inside their nest in winter. They search for warm places to build dens during winter. Typically, opossums occupy habitats abandoned by other animals because it is hard to make their residence in snow and chilly air.
They prefer living underground inside dens that are warm, dry, sheltered, and safe from predators. Other places that opossums occupy are hollow tree trunks, wood piles, rock crevices, old buildings, and cars.
For double protection against cold, opossums make a nest by filling the area with leaves, dry grass, cloth pieces, and other soft material they find in the garbage. They collect the nesting material in the fall to avoid inconvenience for later days.
Opossums are vulnerable to frost bites as their body hair fails to protect them from the cold. When the climate is very harsh, opossums can’t stay outside in the cold. They might invade your home to build their nest in the attics, garage, crawl spaces, and chimney.
What Do Opossums Eat In The Winter?
opossums’ diets change drastically during fall and winter. They eat whatever they can get on their hands. Opossums are omnivorous.
Raccoons enjoy eating fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and small animals in winter, like apples, lettuce, broccoli, eucalyptus, eggs, snakes, rats, fish, slugs, frogs, insects, carrion, and birds. A few months before winter, opossums increase their food intake to store fats.
Fat intake makes them heavier, insulates their body, and helps them conserve heat. The body fats also assist them in surviving harsh climates, when they have a limited nutrition supply and cannot go out in search of food. When the temperature gets slightly better, opossums will go out to collect more food for the next few days.
However, during summers, opossums mainly eat small insects, including beetles, cockroaches, grasshoppers, ticks, mites, and crickets. As food sources are scarce during winter, opossums search for alternate food sources.
In extreme situations, they can survive by eating tree leaves, branches, and shrubs.
Do Opossums Migrate In Winter?
Opossums do not migrate or hibernate in winter. Their activity slows down, and they spend most of their time inside the dens. But they rarely leave their place. Winters are heavy against opossums as they do not store food and solely rely on fat storage. They prefer living in one area rather than traveling to an unknown place.
In the harsh winter, many opossums can share one den and food sources. They come out when the weather is slightly better to look for food, mate, and nesting material.
They increase their search area and travel miles in search of food sources. When the weather goes harsh, opossums hide in warm places and can change dens during winter.
What Time Of Year Are Opossums Most Active?
Opossums are active all around the year. However, they are most active at night during spring and summer. During fall, they focus on storing fats and collecting nesting material. In winters below –4 degrees Celsius, opossums can stay inactive inside dens for several days.
Even though opossums are nocturnal, you can still spot them during the daytime in fall and winter because it is the best time to avoid the cold. The competition for food increases drastically in fall and winter.
Food sources are limited as many other animal species store the food for upcoming harsh times and eat double the amount than usual. Therefore, opossums will move around more than usual during the day.
Summers are the busiest for opossums as that is the breeding season. Female opossums search for dens to hide their babies and spend most of the time searching for food to feed the young.
Where Do Opossums Go In The Winter?
Opossums hide inside their dens in the winter. They will make their den in any hollow, quiet, warm, and sheltered space to rest for several days or until the climate becomes warm.
Winters make opossums’ survival challenging. Opossums are introverts and prefer living in their territory. But, during winters, you might find two or more opossums cramped in a single small den for warmth.
Typically, opossums are active from 10 pm to 3 am. But in winter, they will not come out unless necessary or when starving. You might see opossums roaming around during the daytime in winter as it is warmer and they need food to survive.
How Cold Is Too Cold For Opossums?
As the temperature begins to decrease, opossums will spend most of their time indoors to keep themselves safe and warm. Opossums’ can survive at a temperature of minus four (-4) degrees Celsius.
Temperature below minus seven degrees Celsius is too cold for possums, and they are at a high risk of hypothermia and freezing to death.
Opossums are vulnerable to cold as they have short hairs, which are not enough to keep them warm in harsh weather. They will sleep most of the time to save energy to go through extraordinary cold days.
When a opossum is out of food in winter, it will go out in search during day hours when it is slightly warmer than the night.
Do Opossums Come Out In The Winter?
Yes. Opossums do come out in the winter. They are active all around the year. However, their activity significantly decreases in the cold compared to the summer.
But opossums do not spend all cold season sleeping inside, even in the snow. They will eventually have to come out in search of food. Winters are difficult for opossums, but they survive and remain active by coming out when the harsh weather subsides.
As the temperature decreases, opossums prefer staying indoors. They are mobile in the daytime during winter when it is slightly warmer outside. Opossums are at risk of frostbite, hypothermia, and freezing.
Opossums are not stationary animals. They do not hibernate or migrate when the weather gets cold. Opossums prefer living in one area throughout their life. They change their territories only due to predators or limited food sources. They will strive hard to survive other complicated issues like weather situations.
What Do Opossums Do During The Winter?
Opossums spend their time sleeping and resting during the winter. The food sources are limited, and the cold can cause multiple problems. Therefore, they will preserve their energy by slowing down and staying indoors. With the decrease in activity, fat storage will last for several days.
During winter, opossums hide in dens. To make themselves comfortable, opossums fill their home with nesting materials like grass and leaves. The fat reserve provides them insulation and energy to survive cold days without food. Opossums also lick themselves when it is freezing to keep themselves warm.
However, they will not spend all their time inside the dens. Opossums are not still animals. They like to move around. As the weather gets warmer, they will come out, and when it is cold, they will move inside again.
Do Opossums Get Frostbite?
Frost bites are common in opossums. They do not have enough body hair to keep them insulated against the cold. The mouth, ears, and tail are at a high risk of frostbite because these areas have little to no hairs.
In areas with frequent snowfall, it is common to see opossums with missing tails and ears.
Plus, cold makes them appear old and weak. To avoid frostbite, opossums increase their food intake in autumn to insulate their body with fats. They also build nests underground and indoors. Opossums decrease their activity significantly and avoid going out in the cold.
How Do Opossums Keep Warm In The Winter?
To keep themselves warm in winter, opossums do not hibernate. Neither opossum have long hairs to protect them from the cold and chilly air. Instead, they search for alternate options to stay warm during the cold days.
Following are the ways through which opossums keep warm in winter.
- They slow down and decrease their activity significantly in the cold.
- A few months before winter, opossums build their nest inside the dens and fill the nest with leaves and grass to make it warm and comfortable.
- Opossums increase their diet in winter and store fat to insulate their body and keep them warm throughout winter. Fat reserves will last long when the opossum is staying inside dens.
- Opossums will come out on a food search when the weather gets slightly warmer. It will reserve more fats to last for more days than are left of the winter.
Opossums do not hibernate. During winter, they decrease their activity and stay inside the den to keep themselves warm. In autumn, opossums eat a lot of food to reserve fat which insulates their body and provides them energy to survive when the food sources are limited.
Although they are nocturnal animals, you can spot them searching for food during the day in winter. They are vulnerable to frostbite and hypothermia as they have thin body hair. The ears, mouth, and tail of opossums are most exposed to the cold and will suffer from more injuries caused by the cold.
First record of ‘tail-belting’ in two species of free-ranging rodents (Apodemus flavicollis and Apodemus agrarius): Adaptation to prevent frostbite?Rafal Stryjek, Michael H. Parsons, Piotr Bebas
Seasonal Expression of Avian and Mammalian Daily Torpor and Hibernation: Not a Simple Summer-Winter Affair- Frontiers