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Raccoon Vs Opossum (9 Differences)

Raccoon vs opossum: what’s the difference? These two animals are quite similar in appearance, both being North American mammals, with bushy tails and masked faces. But there are several key differences between raccoons vs opossums that can help you tell them apart. This article will explore some of the key differences between these two animals.

Raccoon Vs Opossum

What Is a Raccoon?

Raccoon sitting on rock
Raccoon sitting on rock | image by Tim Strater via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Raccoons are medium-sized mammals that belong to the Procyonidae family, which also includes other animals such as coatis and olingos. They have stout bodies with black masks around their eyes and bushy tails with rings of white fur. Adult raccoons typically weigh between 10 and 20 pounds, though some individuals can reach weights of up to 30 pounds.

Raccoons are primarily nocturnal animals but can also be active during the day. They are very agile and have nimble hands that they use to open doors, rummage through garbage cans, and steal food from bird feeders.

In addition to being a nuisance, raccoons can also be dangerous. They are known to carry a number of diseases, including rabies, that can be transmitted to humans.

What Is an Opossum?

Oppossum
Opossum | image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region via Flickr

Opossums are small to medium-sized marsupials found throughout North and South America. There are over 100 species of opossum, and they range in size from the pygmy opossum, which is about the size of a mouse, to the Virginia opossum, which can grow up to three feet long.

Opossums are generally nocturnal animals, and they mostly live solitary lives. However, they will sometimes form communal nests with other opossums. Their diet consists primarily of insects and small animals, but they will also eat fruits and plants.

Opossums are relatively long-lived for animals their size, with some individuals living up to 8 years in captivity. Unfortunately, they are often considered pests because of their scavenging habits and are often killed.

 PossumRaccoon
Animal Lifespan5-8 years12-16 years
Physical Appearance and size– Body length from head to tail: 30 inches

– Height: between 8-11 inches

– Body weight: 18- 32 pounds.
– Body length from head to tail: 40 inches

– Body length without the tail: 10-28 inches

– Height: between 9-12 inches
Body weight: 7- 20 pounds
Growth–Young ones live in the female’s marsupium or pouch for up to 120 days.

– Marsupial

Baby opossums are called joeys
– They are mammals, giving birth to live young ones

– Baby raccoons are called kits
Body coloring– Their bodies are white, grey and black

–The face is white with a pink small nose and a narrow snout.
–Their bodies are black and grey with a black “mask” on their face.

– Some have cinnamon or brown—colored bodies.
Range– Central America and the Eastern part of the U.S.–Found throughout South and North America, with some fond in parts of Europe.
Habitat–Bushy or forested habitats, with some living in shrubs

–Well-adapted to living in human-inhabited areas near suburbs, cities and towns.

–Opossums can live anywhere that’s safe, sheltered and dry.
–Moist and woody areas, urban areas, farmlands and suburbs.

–They also live in woodchuck burrows, tree dens, abandoned mines, caves, rain sewers, and deserted buildings.

– Raccoons are well-adapted to living in human-inhabited areas.
Tail Coloration–Prehensile, furless and hairless tails–Bushy tails with interchanging bands of colors
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1. Lifespan

Raccoons and opossums are two common North American animals that often get mistaken for each other. Both animals are nocturnal, have pointed noses, and are excellent climbers.

However, there are several key differences between these two species. Perhaps the most notable difference is in their lifespan.

Raccoons typically live for around 12-16 years in the wild, while opossums can live for up to 8 years. This difference is primarily due to the different lifestyles of these animals.

Raccoons are more likely to be hit by cars or killed by predators, while opossums are more adept at avoiding danger. Additionally, raccoons are more susceptible to diseases such as rabies, which can shorten their lifespan.

In contrast, opossums have a strong immune system and are resistant to many diseases. Consequently, they tend to live longer than their raccoon cousins.

2. Habitat

Virginia Opossum
Virginia Opossum | Image by daynaw3990 from Pixabay

Raccoons are much more adept at climbing than opossums. This is partly due to their long, agile tails, which they use for balance. In contrast, opossums have shorter tails and are not as good climbers.

As a result, raccoons tend to build their dens in trees rather than on the ground. You can also find raccoons in abandoned mines, woodchuck burrows and deserted buildings.

Oppoums, on the other hand, live in bushy, forested areas near streams. They will build their nests on the ground using leaves and sticks.

3. Diet

Raccoons are omnivores, which means that they eat both plants and animals. Their diet consists of fruits, nuts, vegetables, eggs, small mammals, and fish.

Raccoons will also eat garbage and pet food if it is available. In contrast, opossums are primarily carnivores.

Their diet consists mostly of insects, small animals, and carrion. However, they will also eat fruits and plants if necessary.

4. Size

raccoons with stone
Raccoons with stone | image by Jennifer C. via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Raccoons are larger than opossums on average. Adult raccoons typically weigh between 7- 20 pounds, though some individuals can reach weights of up to 30 pounds.

In contrast, adult opossums typically weigh between four and fourteen pounds. Additionally, raccoons are typically two to three feet long, while opossums are only one to two feet long on average.

5. Range

Raccoon on river bank
Raccoon on river bank | Image by Kurt Klement from Pixabay

Raccoons are found in a wider range of geographical areas than opossums. Raccoons are native to North and Central America, while opossums are only found in the Americas.

Additionally, there are more than 60 different species of raccoon, while there are only 20 species of opossum.

6. Coloration

Raccoons are typically grey or brown, with a black mask around their eyes. On the other hand, opossums are white or grey with black faces.

In addition, raccoons have bushy tails, while opossums have long, prehensile tails that they use for climbing. While raccoons and opossums may look alike, careful observation reveals several distinct physical differences between these two animals.

7. Activity

Raccoons are primarily nocturnal, while opossums can be active during the day or night. You can always find raccoons out and about at night, raiding garbage cans or looking for food.

Opossums, on the other hand, are typically only active at night. However, they will occasionally be seen during the day if they are looking for food or shelter.

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8. Nuisance Potential

Opossum on tree branch
Opossum on tree branch | image by ramendan via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Both raccoons and opossums can be nuisances, but raccoons are generally considered more of a nuisance because they are known to carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Additionally, raccoons are more likely to invade homes and attics in search of food or shelter.

While opossums may also enter homes, they are less likely to do so than raccoons. Consequently, raccoons are generally considered more of a nuisance than opossums.

9. Threat Responses

When it comes to confrontations with predators, raccoons and opossums have very different strategies. Raccoons will typically display aggressive behavior that includes growling and snarling before retreating into the safety of a nearby tree, while opossums will usually play dead in the hope that the predator will lose interest.

Opossums also excrete a foul smell from their bodies to deter the predator. Unfortunately, this may cause the possum to become prey for predators unaffected by apparent death.

This difference is because raccoons are much more adept at defending themselves than opossums. Additionally, raccoons are known to be aggressive towards humans, while opossums typically aren’t.

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