Natives of southern climes, opossums are not particularly well equipped for life in the cold, and yet they have been migrating north in increasing numbers over the last decades. Unlike other fur-bearing mammals in the region, opossums have relatively thin coats, and their ears, tails, and feet are virtually hairless.
Besides lacking the proper outerwear, opossums do not hibernate. Except for denning up for short periods during the very coldest weather, they must be out and about all winter searching for food, which makes them extremely vulnerable to hypothermia and frostbite. In fact, wildlife biologists use signs of frostbite to judge an opossum’s age; a frostbitten tail and ears show that the animal has lived through at least one winter.
When provided with adequate winter shelter, opossums can survive the cold northern winters. Although there is virtually no information online about how to build winter opossum shelters, there is an abundance of information on how to create winter shelters for stray cats. Luckily for us, opossums and stray cats have very similar shelter needs.
Click here to be taken to a Neighborhoodcats.org article that has examples of inexpensive, do-it-yourself shelters that can be built in a matter of hours or less. All designs are well-insulated, have minimal air space and are waterproof. Further down on the page, you will find information on flap doors, extra protection for extreme cold and insulating materials to place inside your opossum/cat shelters.
(Most of the information in this blog post was from taken from a northernwoodlands.org article by Catherin Tudish ("Opossums Find Cold Comfort in New England's Winters") and NEIGHBORHOODCATS.ORG)