Barney joined the RWS ambassador team in the summer of 2023 as a baby after a predator or littermate left him missing multiple toes on his front and back feet. He only has two remaining toes on his front right right paw, which limits his ability to grab food, climb, and walk normally. He unfortunately would not be able to survive in the wild because of this. Opossums need their dexterous little hands! That being said, Barney is thriving in captivity where he has extra resources provided for him. His enclosure does have some special features to ensure he can navigate comfortably, like extra rungs on his climbing ladder for him to grab onto. Barney’s favorite food is baked sweet potato, and his least favorite food is...any vegetable. He has learned to eat comfortably in front of an audience. You might get lucky enough to see him in action at an educational program near you!
Opossums are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they are not picky eaters. They are evolved to eat most items they come across! Virginia opossums have 50 teeth - the most of any terrestrial mammal in North America - and those teeth vary in shape and size. They have chompers to bite down on just about any texture they encounter. Their snout has also evolved to be long and skinny. Opossums can wedge their nose into tight crevices to investigate enticing smells and pull out food items they find. Their sense of smell is incredibly well developed and is their primary navigation tool! (Those beady little black eyes won't get them far.) Their nose is about four times as sensitive as ours, so they're able to smell a whole world beyond what we could dream of.