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How to Tell If a Possum is Playing Dead

Possums are masters of playing dead. When confronted by a predator, they often feign death, or “play possum.” This behavior is involuntary and is triggered by fear.

The possum’s body goes limp and its breathing and heartbeat slow to the point where they are barely detectable. The possum may even secrete a foul-smelling fluid from its anal glands. To the casual observer, it would appear that the possum is dead.

  • Check to see if the possum is breathing
  • If the possum is not breathing, it is most likely dead
  • Check for a heartbeat
  • If there is no heartbeat, the possum is probably dead
  • Look for signs of rigor mortis
  • If rigor mortis has set in, the possum is definitely dead

How do you know if a possum is playing dead?

How Long Will a Possum Play Dead?

Possums are interesting creatures. They are North America’s only marsupial, and they have a number of unique adaptations. One of these is their ability to “play possum.”

When faced with a predator, a possum will often roll over onto its back, open its mouth, drool, and generally look like it has died. This defense mechanism is so effective that even experienced coyotes sometimes back off, thinking they have an easy meal. But how long does this charade last?

It turns out that possums can remain in this comatose-like state for up to six hours! And if the predator goes away during that time, the possum will simply wake up and continue with its life as if nothing happened. So there you have it: if you ever see a possum playing dead, don’t be fooled – it’s just doing what comes natural to it.

And who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and see one “wake up” from its slumber right before your eyes.

Do Possums Pretend to Play Dead?

Yes, possums will pretend to play dead when they feel threatened. This is their natural defense mechanism and is known as “playing possum”. When a possum plays dead, it will collapse on its side and remain motionless.

It may even release a foul-smelling fluid from its anal glands. The possum will stay in this position until the threat has passed.

How to Tell If a Possum is Playing Dead Or Actually Dead

When most people think of possums, they think of the animal playing dead. This is actually a common defense mechanism for possums when they feel threatened. But how can you tell if a possum is actually playing dead or if it’s actually dead?

There are a few key things to look for:

1. Possums will usually be completely limp when they play dead. This means their legs will be spread out, and their tails will hang down. If you see a possum with its legs tucked under its body or its tail curled up, then it’s likely that the animal is actually deceased.

2. Another key indicator is the eyes. Possums playing dead will usually have their eyes open and staring straight ahead. If the eyes are closed or sunken, the possum is probably deceased.

3. You can also try to check for a pulse. Although it can be difficult to find, checking for a pulse at the base of the animal’s neck can indicate whether it’s still alive. If there is no pulse, then it’s likely that the possum has passed away.


Possums are nocturnal animals that are often seen as pests. If you come across a possum during the day, it will likely play dead. Here are some signs that a possum is playing dead: its body will be stiff, its mouth will be open, and its eyes will be closed.

It may also emit a foul odor. If you’re unsure whether a possum is dead, you can prod it with a stick to see if it reacts.