Why Do Possums Play Dead? (and For How Long?)

Written by: Helen Matthew

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Possums can play when they are in fear. It’s in their nature, they can’t control it.

This is a physiological response that is caused automatically, and the possum is unable to control it.

It is generally caused due to the severe shock and the stress that the animal undergoes.

Possum can play dead for 40 minutes to 4 hours.

Why Do Possums Play Dead?

Possums play dead when they are in imminent danger of predators like dogs, foxes, and other rodents. It’s in their psychology- it causes due to severe shock and stress that a possum faces.

Why Do Possums Play Dead?
Why Do Possums Play Dead?

How long do possums play dead?

Opossums can play dead for 40 minutes or more than 3 hours. However, it depends on the shock and predator.

In most cases, the predator will play around with the Opossum’s body for a while and leave it.

Playing dead is regarded as an instinctive response from an Opossum, as the prospect of facing danger can send the animal into a temporary shock.

What Happens When Possum Play Dead

While an Opossum is playing dead, its body remains in a limp state, while the front teeth will suddenly turn to balls, and at the same time drools run from its mouth.

It may sometimes appear that post-death decay has started already in the animal. The state of play dead by an Opossum may sometimes go as far as releasing some decay odor, as the animal release some foul smell from its anal region.

Can possum play dead as babies?

Yes, possums can play dead as babies. It’s in their nature and it is involuntary. They are born with this.

Also read: How to get rid of possum from your garage and can possum climb fences?

What is it called when a possum plays dead?

Apparent death, colloquially known as playing dead, feigning death, or playing possum, is a behavior in which animals take on the appearance of being dead.

This form of animal deception is an adaptive behavior also known as tonic immobility. (Source: Wikipedia)

How to know if a possum is playing dead?

If the opossum is still breathing or warm to the touch, it is alive. If it is playing dead, it will actually be in a mock paralysis state, leaving it mostly safe to move.

However, you should not move the opossum with your bare hands. Put on gloves and move it with a shovel when it is playing dead, as it would be the best time to move it.

Opossums have a nasty bite, an entire 50 teeth mouthful worth of one, but they tend to bite as a last resort.

If you try to move an opossum by hand, grab it by the base of its tail and scruff of the neck to prevent it from biting.

How to Wake Up a Possum

Possums are wake up when their shock senses are OK. You cannot do anything from outside to wake up a possum.

The best you can do left them in a safe area where they are free from a predator. Places like small bushes are great for this.

They might wake up within a few minutes to as long as 3 hours.

Final Thoughts

We hope that you found Why Do Possums Play Dead? It’s their scary reaction to danger. They can play dead from 40 minutes to 4 hours. To wake them up place them in the bush or covered area, where they are free from danger.

They are peaceful animals and don’t attack humans.

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