Raccoon Vs Possum: 10 Key Differences

raccoon vs possum
Opossums is the scientific name for possums, and Procyon lotors is the scientific name for raccoons. These animals have many similarities, making it difficult to tell the difference between them. Both are small animals that can be pests to homeowners. Both are nocturnal omnivores, dig through trash cans, and have bushy fur. 

However, if you take a closer look and learn more about both, you will notice many differences between the two wild animals. 

The 10 key differences between a raccoon and an opossum:


  • Raccoons are usually longer and taller than possums.
  • Raccoons have a greater sense of touch than possums.
  • Raccoons are a single species, but there are over 70 possum species. 
  • Gray, black, albino, and brown, while possums are white, gray, and black. 
  • Raccoons have a black area on their face that resembles a mask with a black nose, while possums have a white face and a pink nose.
raccoon on the grass


  • Possums resemble rodents with their body shape, size, and hairless tails, but raccoons resemble cats with their bushy tails, ringed tails, eyes, and triangular faces.
  • Both possums and raccoons give live birth, but possums are marsupials, meaning their baby develops in the mother’s pouch after birth.
  • Possums are usually heavier than raccoons.  
  • Possums are native to Australia, while raccoons are native to North America.
  • Possums have a shorter lifespan than raccoons.
opossum in the grass

Which One Is In Your Yard?

If you notice an animal has been through your yard, your livestock has been killed, a den has been built, or even your garbage cans have been knocked over, you may be wondering if a raccoon or possum is to blame. Since they both cause similar damage and seek out similar food sources, it can be challenging to identify which critter it was if you didn’t see it.

raccoon looking up

The biggest hint to solving this mystery would be to look at the footprints. A raccoon’s footprints resemble a human hand, although smaller in size with more spread out digits. Possums have opposable thumbs, which can be seen in their footprints.

The thumb will appear separated from the rest of the digits, and the footprint will display the digits in sections, unlike the raccoon footprint, which will show them all as connected. 

opossum teeth

Will a raccoon and opossum fight?

Raccoons and possums typically don’t fight. If they do fight, it is because of food, and since raccoons are larger, they usually win, but not always. Both animals have strengths that will help them in a fight, such as their sharp claws.

However, if there is enough food, the two animals eat alongside each other contentedly. They may become slightly aggressive with each other, such as swiping or hissing, but the small mammals do not usually get into serious fights. 

raccoon hands

What’s worse in your backyard: raccoon or opossum?

Even though both animals will cause similar damage to your yard, it is worse to have a raccoon in your yard than a possum because raccoons are more dangerous. Both wild animals carry diseases and are intelligent, but possums are more gentle than raccoons.

When threatened, possums will play dead, but if a raccoon is threatened, it may attack. While possums can still attack, they will avoid confrontation and are passive. It doesn’t take much for a raccoon to feel threatened and lash out. Also, raccoons carry rabies more commonly than possums do, making raccoons worse to have around. 

opossum sitting

Are possums smarter than raccoons?

Possums are just as smart as raccoons. Raccoons are known for being intelligent creatures, but not many people know just how smart possums are as well.

Possums may appear unintelligent due to slow reaction times and slow movement. They are not as aggressive or curious as raccoons, don’t work cooperatively, and mother possums forget how many babies they have. Possums’ brains are only one-sixth the size of a raccoon’s brain.

opossum in a tree

Nonetheless, possums excel in intelligence tests performed by scientists. They remember where food has been hidden and solve maze puzzles. In the studies, possums completed these tasks faster than cats, rats, dogs, and rabbits.

Possums also can identify specific smells after a year. Raccoons are wonderful problem-solvers and have been proven to have better memories than dogs. Raccoons will wash their food to feel if it is edible.

raccoon amongst rocks

Both creatures are equally intelligent in their own ways.


Whitney is a graduate of Georgetown College and a current graduate student at the University of the Cumberlands. She resides in the beautiful state of Kentucky, which she has always appreciated and endeavors to maintain the land's well-being. A lover of animals and the earth, Whitney strives to communicate accurate information that will help readers learn new information, ideas, and become informed stewards of the natural world.

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