Philander gray four-eyed opossum
June 1, 2019 | View PDF
Gray four-eyed opossums (Philander opossum) are Neotropical marsupials with a range that extends from northeastern Mexico in Tamaulipas, to southeastern Brazil. Within this range, they may be found from Brazil's Atlantic coast, west-ward into Peru and Argentina and throughout Central America in tropical lowlands and the Amazon and Parana basins. They are found mainly in tropical forested areas such as tropical evergreen, secondary growth and gallery forests. These opossums generally prefer damp areas near swamps and streams and usually reside in areas that receive more than 1,000 mm of rain per year.
The common name, gray four-eyed opossum, is derived from their gray coat and the white spots located above each eye, which makes them appear to have four eyes.
These animals produce 2 to 4 liters per year, however, success is low; many pouch young do not survive, especially during the dry months. Gray four-eyed opossums may live up to 2.5 years in the wild. In captivity, these animals may live for up to 3.5 years. They are primarily nocturnal.
These animals generally construct nests from dried leaves in the lower branches of trees, 32 feet from the ground.
Although gray four-eyed opossums are solitary, these animals are generally not considered territorial, with overlapping home ranges and up to 150 individuals per 1.25 miles. Their home ranges are not firmly established, animals may travel nomadically, particularly when food availability is low.
They are not known as vocal animals, however, these animals do communicate with a series of clicks, chirps and hisses. Unlike many other opossum species, these animals do not ‘play possum’ when threatened, instead these animals will fiercely fight perceived threats. When they are in duress, they also make a series of threatening visual displays such as opening their mouths and hissing.
They are omnivorous about half of their diet consists of small animals such as insects, earthworms, birds, lizards, eggs, frogs, snails and small mammals, particularly spiny rats. The remainder of their diet includes leaves, bark, seeds, nuts, nectar and fruits such as papayas, bananas, sweet lemons and plums.
They are preyed upon by a variety of mammals, owls and large rep-tiles such as Amazon Tree Boas, South American Bushmasters, Ocelots, Jaguarondis, Tayras, Greater Grisons, Gray Foxes, and Barn Owls. Compared to other species of opossums, these animals are extremely fierce fighters, defending themselves violently as needed.
The white fur spots located above their eyes gives the appearance of always being awake and vigilant, which may detract some predators. If you would like to see one we have a Philander four eyed opossum in our zoo his name is Oscar he’s a very handsome boy.