Find out the latest pest control and wildlife removal methods that can help you get rid of opossums and keep them out of your property indefinitely.
Possums and Their Role in the Environment
The explorer John Smith was one of the first Europeans to see an opossum when he came to what was later the colony of Virginia. He described it as having the head of a pig, the tail of a rat, and the size of a cat. Since that time, opossums have served as everything from a source of food to a misunderstood pest.
The Virginia opossum, also simply called a “possum” in colloquial terms, is the only species of this animal in the United States. It lives primarily in the South, East, and Midwestern states, although it was introduced to the Pacific Northwest during the 1930s. Opossums are also expanding north, likely taking advantage of rising winter temperatures.
The opossum is a marsupial, meaning the female carries her young in a pouch on her stomach. Once they get old enough, the baby opossums then ride on her back for approximately 4 to 5 months before they head out on their own. Opossums have a high mortality rate as babies, and even those that make it to adulthood live only about 2 years.
Opossums are generally nocturnal, although they can come out in the day to find food when necessary. They also are solitary. A mother with babies is likely to be the only grouping of opossums you see.
In the wild, opossums have a varied omnivorous diet. They will eat plants such as berries and vegetables, usually in the late summer through winter months. During the spring and early summer, they eat eggs, fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles, small mammals, and animal remains. They also consume ticks, with the average opossum eating 5,000 ticks in a year.
Their consumption of small animals and remains makes opossums important in maintaining food webs and managing pests within their local habitats. They also mitigate tick populations that can spread Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, two dangerous tick-borne illnesses that spread from tick bites.
Opossums defend themselves from predators and threats by “playing possum,” taking on the appearance of a dead or sick animal. Their lips pull back to expose their teeth, they secrete an unpleasant smell, and they faint. They will stay in this state for anywhere from a few minutes to four hours. This is a biological response, not a conscious choice, and is another reason that opossums are rarely dangerous.
Possums as Pests
Possums are the ultimate opportunists. While their natural habitat is woodlands, they are easily able to move into more urban areas where garbage, pet food, and human food provide sustenance for them. This has resulted in an increase in opossums spending time or living in yards.
In general, an opossum in your yard is only stopping by for a meal and will soon be on its way. It can even help eliminate other pests, like slugs, insects, and small rodents around the area.
There are cases, such as during below-freezing weather or breeding, where an opossum might move in beneath a deck, patio, or crawl space or into an attic or garage to take advantage of the shelter there, and could stay for months if there is a nearby food source.
While opossums pose almost no threat, there are still a few reasons that they should be kept in nature and not handled directly. Outdoors, they have often been considered pests because they can:
- Make a Mess – Opossums will go through garbage looking for food. They are less likely than raccoons to open and overturn trash cans but happily find and consume any accessible trash or compost.
- Eat Plants in Your Garden – While opossums can benefit your garden by consuming pests, they might also eat your crop of vegetables and fruits or trample over your plants.
- Attack House Pets or Children – Usually opossums respond to any threat by playing dead. However, like any animal, they can defend themselves with hissing and biting in some cases, so there is a chance that approaching them could result in injury. Children should be taught not to pet or feed wildlife and cats and dogs should be monitored when outdoors to prevent any encounters with an opossum.
- Kill Chickens – Opossums have a reputation for breaking into chicken coops to eat the chickens and the eggs. This is not commonplace behavior as other food sources are often more convenient.
- Die – Opossums, like other mammals, may pass away on a property if they’re there too long. Dead animals can cause pest issues, disease, unpleasant smells, and more.
There is also a low chance of rabies with opossums, but their colder body temperature makes them one of the less likely mammals to carry this disease. Many people mistake an opossum’s bared teeth and foaming mouth during “playing possum” for rabies infection. In reality, this is only their defense mechanism and the chance of disease, while possible, is extremely rare.
Are Possums Hard to Get Rid Of?
Keeping opossums out of your property is beneficial in the long run for both you and the animals. As a wildlife species, excessive consumption of human foods, like those found in the trash, negatively impacts an opossum’s health. The slight risk of disease or attack also presents a reason to decrease the chance of these animals in your yard.
The good news is that this is not a difficult animal to remove from your yard and keep out. The recommended method of dealing with an opossum in your yard is to let it be. Within two or three days, it will likely move elsewhere.
If you have an opossum that seems to have set up permanent residence beneath your patio or you come out every morning to find your garden torn up, there are steps you can take to get rid of opossums. These include:
- Removal – An opossum inside your home should be immediately returned outdoors for the safety of your family and the animal. Depending on the location, this can mean ushering the opossum through an open door or a more complex trapping procedure. It is also possible to remove an opossum from a den on your property and relocate it to a more natural habitat.
- Prevention – Changing the habitat in your yard that draws opossums to the area and addressing the places where they enter will effectively keep opossums away from your property, instead of forcing them to go elsewhere to find food and shelter.
You should not kill an opossum whether it is in your yard or home. Not only is this inhumane, but it is illegal in many states. The role these animals play in the environment means they are often protected under wildlife legislation. Rely instead on humane, non-harmful methods of getting rid of opossums.
Most individual homeowners are capable of preventing opossums on their own, without professional assistance. Depending on your plan and what brings opossums to your area, you will likely need only a few new products, limited handyman skills, and a bit of time. Some solutions for wildlife control for opossums are ongoing to consistently keep them out, but these will require little time.
Possums that have made their way indoors, however, are a bit more of an urgent issue. Indoors, these animals may be more destructive or dangerous. Removing an opossum presently on your property, or one that has wandered into your home should be done cautiously if you are attempting it on your own. This is a wild animal that can display unexpected behavior. You must also be aware of any local legislation regarding how opossums should be trapped and released.
For these types of urgent issues, it is often best to rely on a licensed and insured wildlife control expert for removal for both safety and legal reasons.
How to Get Rid of Possums Fast
Getting rid of opossums generally takes only a couple of days whether you work with a professional or put in dedicated time for DIY opossum removal. This provides time to trap or wait for any opossums present to leave, and then a few hours or days to implement preventative measures. The exact timeline depends on the opossum, the size of your property, and how much effort is required to remove factors that attract animals.
To ensure a fast and successful DIY removal, you will need to pay careful attention to areas where opossums are likely to go. Extensively performed opossum prevention will result in near-complete removal of opossums within days. There is still some chance that one might wander onto your property on occasion, but exclusion should effectively keep them out.
The different methods to remove and prevent opossums, which can be used individually or in combination with other removal methods, include:
- Trapping – Possible through both commercial and DIY methods, trapping an opossum involves capturing it with a trap and bait. The opossum is released afterward in a safe location. Trapping might take a few days, as you wait for the opossum to enter the trap.
- Habitat Management – An opossum seeks out fruits, vegetables, small animals, and animal remains for food. They also need a sheltered place to build a temporary den. If your yard provides these, they could be tempting opossums to stop there. Identifying and removing these areas makes opossums less likely.
- Repelling – Natural and chemical-based repellents can supplement other opossum control methods with scents and tastes that opossums dislike. These are not harmful, but rather work on a basis of discouraging opossums. Repellents generally work immediately, although they will often need to be regularly reapplied to continue being effective.
- Exclusion – By physically closing breaches into your home and yard that opossums can squeeze through, it becomes physically impossible for opossums to enter. This is especially useful for protecting indoor spaces.
- Professional Wildlife Control – A professional will handle challenges with opossums through trapping, removal, exclusion, and other methods to ensure they are gone. This is often the fastest method as it removes the guesswork that DIYers might face as they work to understand what brings opossums to their yard.
In certain cases, such as a diseased opossum, a particularly aggressive opossum, or one indoors on your property, you will need to remove the animal immediately. These situations can be dangerous for your family or pets and are best left to professionals. If a wild animal is putting you at imminent risk, seek out emergency wildlife control in your area or contact the local fire or police department.
Can You Get Rid of Possums on Your Own?
Since opossums pose little threat and generally leave on their own in time, managing the steps to keep them away on your own can be both simple and cost-effective. You should consider your situation and goals when making your plan for opossum removal, whether you are looking to get rid of them completely or protect a certain area. This will guide how you approach opossums.
The first step is to determine you are dealing with opossums. These animals are nocturnal, so you might see the signs instead of the opossum itself. The common signs include scattered trash, droppings, unpleasant odors, missing pet food, or activity in the garden. Several other nuisance wildlife, like raccoons, skunks, and rodents, can leave similar signs but most opossum control methods will work against other wildlife as well.
Once you’ve confirmed or suspect an opossum has a den on your property or is regularly trespassing, follow these steps to keep it out:
- Inspect Your Yard – A thorough inspection of your yard will reveal where opossums might be making their dens if there are any currently living on your property, and what they are eating. Check for accessible food, remembering that opossums will eat nearly everything.
- Remove a Nesting Opossum – If your inspection turns up an opossum living on your property, give them a few days to leave, encourage them to leave, or trap them and take them elsewhere. If you will not be excluding your home, this step isn’t necessary.
- Keep Opossums Out – Manage the habitat, exclude opossums from your home, and apply repellents to prevent reentry or the invasion of opossums in the future. Plan your prevention strategy around the area you want to prevent opossums whether that is only inside, or both inside and outside.
- Monitor – Watch for signs that opossums might still be present as this can indicate further steps are needed to completely keep opossums away.
Not every strategy for opossum control is necessary at every home. If you are only looking to remove an opossum that has made its way inside, you might not need to examine your yard. But if you regularly deal with opossum invasions or other wildlife pests, a full exclusion approach can help mitigate future problems.
How to Remove an Possum
Opossums can occasionally come inside, often through an open door, a pet door, or a hole in a wall. Those inside should be removed as soon as possible. You may also wish to remove an opossum living in a den beneath a patio or deck immediately. In either case, to remove an opossum without waiting for it to leave, you can try the following:
- Disrupt the Nest – An opossum will naturally seek out a new nest every 2 or 3 days. By messing up their existing nest, you will hurry them along. They leave around dusk to forage for food, so seek out their nest after they have left for the evening and tear it apart.
- Commercial Trap – You’ll want to place your trap at night to avoid attracting daytime animals. Set it in an area where you have noticed the opossum is active and bait it with pet food, fish, meat, or fruits. Check it first thing in the morning. Trapping can take several attempts to get the right location and bait and don’t be surprised if you trap other animals in the process.
- DIY Trap – It is also possible to make a trap yourself rather than buying one. Tilt an empty trash can measuring at least 2 feet tall at a 45-degree angle against a low table or stack of books. Place bait at the bottom of the can. The opossum will climb into the can and the motion should right the can back to a 90-degree angle, making it impossible for the animal to climb back out. You can gently shake the trash can to disorient the opossum or cover the can with a towel if the opossum is trying to escape.
- Food Trail – Sometimes leaving a trail of cat or dog food from where an opossum is hiding to your door will tempt them to exit. Be careful that another animal doesn’t follow the trail into your home in the opposite direction.
- Broom – If the opossum is near a doorway, gently nudging them with the broom towards the opening can encourage them to leave.
If you are trapping the opossum indoors and don’t mind having it on your property as long as it is outdoors, let it go at the border of your yard near a fence or barrier. Simply leave the trap open and the opossum will emerge and leave when it feels safe. Releasing near dusk is the best time.
Alternatively, removing the opossum from your property completely and taking it elsewhere must be done in accordance with local and state laws. These laws impact how opossums can be trapped and where and how they must be released. A county wildlife office can usually help you interpret any related requirements.
NOTE: One thing to keep in mind is that an opossum that appears dead might not be. Playing dead is this animal’s defense mechanism. Before you place an opossum in a bag or trash, give it a few hours to see if it shows signs of life, usually beginning with twitching ears.
How to Prevent Possums
Before taking steps to prevent opossums, you will want to make sure there are none still living inside your home or beneath a deck. Sealing up holes or applying a repellent can cause them to become trapped. Once the mother has left, check for babies before you close up any entry points. Mothers typically carry their young wherever they go and will not leave them in a den, so the risk of stranding babies is low but possible.
When opossums are out of their dens inside or around your home, you can begin the process of exclusion. This involves sealing up any area they can use to enter (thus “excluding” them from your property). You can do this yourself by replacing any damaged doors or access panels, locking pet doors, repairing holes in walls, and placing screening or lattice so that animals cannot get beneath decks.
Exclusion for opossums has the added benefit of keeping out other animals, such as raccoons, skunks, and even rodents if you address the smaller holes. Exclusion will keep opossums physically out of your home. To also manage opossums in your yard, you can employ the following methods:
- Remove Food Sources – Pet food, trash cans, and gardens most often provide food for opossums. If you feed your pets outdoors, bring their food bowls in at night. Invest in locking trash cans that cannot be opened by animals. Since opossums often go for rotting fruit, regularly pick up any that has fallen on the ground beneath your trees.
- Eliminate Hiding Places – Opossums use existing nests or nest-like spaces for their dens rather than creating their own. Removing debris from your yard and blocking off areas under decks or homes where an opossum might hide limits the areas they can make their den.
- Repellents – Several chemical repellents are on the market, generally in the form of granules or a spray. They use odor to keep opossums out and smell as bad to people as they do to animals. Because of this, they are best used at the perimeter of your yard and away from your house. These should not be used if you have outdoor pets that could come into contact with the repellent.
- Repelling Devices – There are also electronic devices that use ultrasonic waves to keep animals of all types away. The effectiveness of these is open to debate.
- Fencing – Best for gardens or smaller areas, a wire fence should measure at least 4 feet high and be slanted outwards near the top to prevent climbing over. Some people will add 3 to 4 inches of electrical fencing near the top for additional protection.
Not every home will require each method. For instance, many homeowners find that exclusion and habitat management are enough to keep opossums away. Those that face larger populations of these animals or especially adventurous opossums might need to use more comprehensive techniques. Monitoring your property after you implement these strategies will assist you in determining what else is necessary.
Natural Methods for Repelling Possums
The most effective methods to prevent opossums rely on physical changes to your yard and barriers, rather than chemicals. But if you are using repellents as an additional measure or in place of exclusion and want to avoid chemicals, there are several natural materials that are purported to deter opossums. These include:
- Pet Fur – Opossums will avoid suspected predators, including a dog or cat. By placing discarded pet fur around your yard, the scent will deter opossums. Do not leave your pet outside at night in an effort to chase opossums away since this endangers both your pet and the opossum if one attacks the other.
- Ammonia – Fill a jar with a bit of ammonia and cut a hole in the jar’s lid. Thread a rag through the hole so that the bottom is resting in the ammonia. The rag will soak up the ammonia and release the small into the surrounding air. Use caution with ammonia around dogs and cats, for which it can be toxic. You should also avoid extensive contact with ammonia yourself as it can be an irritant.
- Garlic – The scent and taste of garlic is sometimes successful in repelling opossums. You can either place crushed garlic cloves around your yard or mix minced garlic and water, add it to a spray bottle, and spray it on surfaces where opossums are active.
- Spicy Peppers – Like garlic, hot peppers produce a taste and scent opossums dislike.
Mix one cup of water, a half cup of dish soap, and a half cup of hot sauce or crushed hot peppers together. Spray this mixture around your yard.
Home remedies for opossums have limited scientific backing. Yet with few adverse health effects and a low cost, there is little risk to using natural opossum repellents around your home.
How to Get Rid of Possums Permanently with Professional Wildlife Control
Those who still deal with opossums after DIY solutions or who are seeking a more immediate or hands off approach to wildlife control should contact a wildlife control professional. With their knowledge and expertise, they often provide a guaranteed way of getting rid of opossums forever, so long as you choose the right company.
There are many wildlife control companies and similar businesses that offer animal removal services. The one you choose should be licensed and insured. They should also practice humane wildlife control, not extermination when it comes to opossums.
Having a wild animal inside your home often doesn’t leave you much time to shop around for the right service. Taking a few moments to consider what you need for opossum control and inquire about the company’s services for wildlife can help you choose the right professional quickly.
Live Trapping and Removal
Humane opossum control requires that the opossum is kept alive except in extreme circumstances, such as the case of a diseased animal. When bringing in a professional to handle the opossum, choose one that will not euthanize the opossum.
Rather, a reputable wildlife control company will use live trapping – commercial traps that hold the opossum without killing it – to capture the animal. This could be done through a baited trap, snare pole, or by hand.
They then remove it to an alternate location that mirrors their habitat and is several miles from homes. A wildlife control company will often safely clean up debris and droppings left over from a nest as well.
There are several benefits to relying on professional wildlife to get rid of opossums:
- Knowledge – A wildlife control company typically has experience with opossums so they understand their behavior and challenges. This can help professionals set traps more efficiently. They should also be aware of the local laws and regulations surrounding wildlife removal.
- Equipment – Professionals already have commercial traps and equipment on hand, saving you the cost and effort of buying your own for what is often a one time use. Wildlife control companies are trained in the use of equipment, which makes trapping faster and safer.
- Safety – While opossums are rarely dangerous, they are still a wild animal with unpredictable behavior. Letting a professional handle wildlife removes the risk you face if you were to attempt to interact with it yourself.
Some wildlife control companies, like Nextgen Pest Solutions, can also provide 24 hour emergency opossum removal when you need immediate service, such as a situation where they are trapped indoors. Fortunately, opossums are rarely a threat, but knowing of a dependable company to turn to in case of an emergency can reassure you that your family is protected in every eventuality.
Professional wildlife control companies might offer exclusion service as well. Like DIY opossum exclusion, professional exclusion employs many of the same tactics. The wildlife control professional will inspect your home and yard to determine why opossums are present. They then remove the spaces where animals breach your home and recommend areas to address to avoid attracting opossums to your property.
An expert in wildlife control will bring their experience and training with opossums in your area to the job. This enables them to notice even the smallest problem areas, making their methods some of the most effective.
If you have attempted opossum exclusion on your own without the desired results, professional exclusion can often identify and correct the remaining challenges. This makes it possible to get rid of opossums permanently.
Opossums are found in a majority of states, and their range continues to expand as they rely more and more on people to provide their sustenance. Still, the Southeast remains the area most associated with opossums and encounters with these animals are prevalent.
Nextgen Pest Solutions is a local wildlife control serving those in the Georgia and Florida area. We practice humane wildlife control with all local animal invasions, including opossums. With 24 hour emergency service, affordable rates, and guaranteed services, we can get rid of opossums at your home.
We can also answer your questions about opossum removal and prevention and assist you throughout the process. Give us a call at (+61404532026 for 24 hour support. You can also fill out our contact form or chat with us.