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Opal the Opossum has a new home at Ijams Nature Center

Opal is a Virginia Opossum and is an Ijams animal ambassador. Visitors will be able to see her live animal program this spring.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Opal the Opossum has a new home at the Ijams Nature Center, where she will continue her work as one of the center's animal ambassadors.

Officials said that she explored her new enclosure this week, which was built due to donations received in 2020. It includes fixtures she can climb on and a soft floor so that she can comfortably walk around.

Opal is a Virginia Opussom who was given to the center after her mother and siblings were hit by a car. Officials decided she could not be released to the wild because of her attachment to people.

The Virginia Opossum is the only marsupial in North America, and people around East Tennessee may see them roaming around their homes. Opossums generally are not dangerous, despite how they may seem in the wild.

Their strongest defense from predators is playing dead, and they may bare their teeth and hiss when threatened. Despite their frightening appearance, they are harmless. Officials said that they can eat up to 5,000 ticks in a season and do not carry rabies, because their body temperature is too low for the virus to replicate. 

Officials with Ijams said people can see Opal during a live animal program this spring.