How Do Opossums Survive Winter?


The Virginia Opossum can be found in the United States and Canada. In winter they have a difficult time, and I wanted to explore some of the ways that they survive winter.

Opossums do not hibernate in winter, and need to find a warm place to make their nest. In order to keep away from predators, opossums make a new nest every few weeks.

Opossums have a difficult time in winter. To find out more, please read on.

If you or someone you know loves opossums then you may like some of my favorite gifts that you can get on Amazon.

Opossum in winter

What Is An Opossums Habitat?

Opossums are not picky about their environment or where they live. Opossums are more likely to stay up in the trees because this is where they prefer their habitat to be. However, you can also find them in large numbers in wet areas such as swamps, streams, and marshes. 

Does An Opossums Habitat Change Seasonally?

Depending on the season, opossums may choose to approach your house or yard and can cause problems.

However, these animals are not harmful to you or your plants. Winter is one of the coldest months of the year, and with that in mind, food and fresh water become harder for an opossum to get. 

Opossums may choose to raid your trash cans in search of food and water. They are also likely to start digging in your yard looking for food. During the winter, they find their wet habitats not very conducive, and you may find them digging in your yard in search of a cozy place for winter. 

opossum in winter

Opossums do not benefit adequately from protection to the elements from their fur during the winter because their fur doesn’t provide maximum insulation from the weather. 

Due to this, they have to find areas that are dry and sheltered. Due to the number of predators in wet areas, opossums know that these areas are generally not safe. 

Opossums will choose to spend the winter in dry, safe areas. The animals have hairless tails, toes, and ears, which make them very vulnerable to frostbite in winter. This is one of the reasons why opossums are likely to hole up in extreme cold spells.

During the winter, Opossums are likely to find new, warmer habitats. 

In most of the cases, their newfound houses are likely to be in:

  • Hollow trees and logs
  • Wood piles
  • Spaces in the buildings inhabited areas
  • Burrows dug by other animals
  • Rock crevices. 

Opossums will focus on making these places as warm as possible, which means they are likely to line their nests with grass and other soft materials. If you have ever wondered hw opossums carry these materials, then you may be surprised that they use their curled-up tails to help them.

opossum in winter

During the winter, these animals like to be thought of as members of your family. When they invade your home for food, they can enter the building, nesting in your crawl space, attic and chimney. By doing this, they will be able to survive the winter and survive the cold spell.

Opossums are not a stationary animal because they don’t have any real defense besides playing dead and using their teeth. For this reason, they like to keep moving from one place to the other to avoid predators. 

You shouldn’t expect to see a possum in one nest for over a week. They usually move from one nest to the other quite quickly.

In a recent study by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, one Opossum visited 19 different dens in 5 months. The study showed that pregnant opossums could stay longer in one den, and also in winter, an opossum can stay longer in one den. 

opossum in winter

Possums will not get along well with their partners during this season. If you do find an opossum in your house, they are most likely to be on their own. During winter, they do not like to share their nest.

Unlike other animals that share their nests during the winter to keep themselves warm, these small animals will focus on staying solo, which can be dangerous and difficult because of lack of food and constructing these nests.

During the winter, it is more likely to spot opossums in your yard, or even trying to hide in some cracks near or in your house. 

Is Winter Difficult For Opossums?

Opossums have the hardest time of the year during the winter months.

Their fur doesn’t provide enough insulation, and opossums also don’t store enough fat to get them through the winter. 

opossum in winter

Opossums are less likely to share their nests with other opossums, having to spend the season in hollow trees and brush piles such as abandoned woodchuck burrows. 

Although not the smartest animal in the wild, they do have some tactics of getting through these cold months.

They start by gathering nest materials, transporting it either with their mouth, or by grasping it with their tails. They will nest in a safe place and try to build their nest in a warm area.

Opossums have a tendency to switch nests often because of predation. The lifespan is two years, and so they have to protect themselves from predators that are also hungry in the winter.

During the winter, food is also very scarce. Opossums usually hunt for food during the night, which makes it very difficult for them to spot foods to meet their body energy requirements. 

Considering the above information, it is easy to see that winter is very hard on opossums. 

Deer have developed some amazing adaptations to survive the winter. Find out what these are in an article I have written. 20 clever ways deer survive winter.

opossum in winter

Do Opossums Hibernate In Winter?

Many people expect that opossums hibernate during the winter, but this is not the case.  

Opossums are active throughout the winter. The reason behind this is because they don’t store food, and they do not accumulate enough body fat to survive. 

This shows they have to be active to get water and food. Opossums also have to move from one place to the other to avoid predators and other risks, especially during the cold winter months. 

Opossums will stay in their dens during the day but are active at night. They can be active during the day, especially when food is scarce, but at night they are likely to go out in search of food and to avoid their main predators. Opossums can travel up to two miles from their nests. 

Ever wondered how red foxes survive winter. I have written an article explaining the many ways they stay warm here.

Can Opossums Live In The Cold?

Opossums have to live in the cold, but they usually struggle because their fur doesn’t provide enough insulation from the cold. 

Opossums find this season as the toughest. This means they have to find warmer places to reside and, if possible, areas with enough food. Opossums, unlike many wild animals, don’t store enough fat to hibernate through winter.

opossum in winter

What Do Opossums Do During Winter?

Opossums are not very active during the winter, but they have to feed and defend themselves. Opossums will not be as active as they are in the other seasons of the year. 

During winter, they will first find a safe and warm place to live. If possible, they also prefer to stay close to food sources. 

Does An Opossums Behavior Change During Winter?

During the winter, opossums will retain their natural behavior. They will still be nocturnal, meaning they are active during the night and sleep during the day. 

Most of their nights will be spent looking for food. In the winter, when food is scarce, they are likely to scavenge through trash and other unusual food sources. 

They can eat anything from meat to vegetables, so it is possible to find them going through your trash cans. Don’t be too hard on them; they are just trying to survive what is a difficult time for them.

If you or someone you know loves opossums then you may like some of my favorite gifts that you can get on Amazon.

Want to know how to help wildlife in winter. I have written an article on how you can help. Check It out here.

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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