Behind an opossum’s black button eyes, cute paws, and pink nose lies a wild animal, so steer clear. If these cute-but-dangerous animals visit your yard at night, we’ll show you how to get rid of opossums with chemicals, home remedies, or the help of a pest control pro.
Why opossums are dangerous: These animals can carry parasites and illnesses, so It’s important to take the right steps to get this critter off your lawn. Leave the mothballs behind and instead remove the animal’s food source before they set up house.
Because opossums are nocturnal, their damage to your lawn will be evident in the daylight. Once you recognize the signs of these nocturnal animals and know the right measures to remove them, this pest won’t be stealing cat food for much longer.
- How to Identify an Opossum
- How to Get Rid of Opossums
- How to Get Rid of Opossums with Chemicals
- How to Get Rid of Opossums with Home Remedies
- FAQ About Opossums
- When to Call a Pest Control Pro
How to Identify an Opossum
Opossums are about the size of a house cat. They’re native to North and South America and are the only marsupial native to North America. Rather than growing their offspring in the womb, marsupials carry and nurture their young in an abdominal pouch.
Possums, on the other hand, are similar in name and appearance but lack the silent “o” and are only found in Australia. Possums have longer, furry tails and tend to be fluffier and smaller than opossums.
Opossums are about 2 to 3 feet long (including their hairless tails) and weigh between 4 to 7 pounds. Some opossums may weigh up to 15 pounds. Males are typically larger than females.
An opossum has coarse grayish fur, a pointed face, and hairless ears and tail. Like our thumbs, its prehensile tail can grasp and hold objects, such as tree branches or nesting material. Their feet resemble small hands with five fingers, widely spread.
These critters are well adapted to climbing and can use their opposable toe on the hindfoot to hold onto small branches.
Common opossum species include the gray short-tailed, common, and Virginia opossum.
How to Get Rid of Opossums
1. Cut back branches
An invading opossum may get on or in your house via tree branches. Cut back overgrown shrubbery and trees at least 5 feet away from the roof edge. No opossum is going to pay room and board for a pleasant stay in your attic!
2. Remove fallen fruit
These critters love a fruit snack. Remove fallen fruit to help ensure you don’t attract opossums to your yard.
3. Stack firewood
Stack your firewood tightly and remove any major gaps that an opossum could use as a den. Consider storing the firewood about 18 inches off the ground.
4. Remove brush piles
Opossums can make themselves a comfortable home in your brush pile. Keep your yard free of brush, and you’ll eliminate a possible hiding place for these critters.
5. Replace garbage can lids
Like raccoons, opossums love to find a good meal in your trash can. Loose or misshapen garbage can lids may create an easy opening for these scavengers. Replace your garbage can lid with tight-fitting lids that may help deter opossums from crawling inside.
6. Remove pet food
Pet food bowls can be an attraction for opossums. By nightfall, remove any pet food from the outdoors. Removing food may help prevent opossums from accessing pet doors and reduce fights between them and your pets.
7. Close off entry points with wire mesh
Prevent an opossum’s presence beneath stairs, crawl spaces, decks, porches, buildings, or mobile homes by blocking access to the area.
The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources suggests creating a barrier to the openings or entrances of these areas with 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth. Bury the hardware cloth, or similar wire mesh, up to 6 inches to deter the opossum from digging underneath the barrier.
Before blockading the area, you’ll want to ensure any invading opossum has left; otherwise, you’ll trap it inside. Sprinkle a smooth layer of flour in front of the entrance. The powder will help you track the animal’s movements.
Examine the flour soon after dark. Once you see footprints leading out of the entrance, you can safely assume the animal has left and can begin closing off the area.
8. Build a wire mesh fence
Help keep opossums out of your garden by building a fence of poultry wire.
The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources recommends building a fence that is 4 feet high with the top 12 to 18 inches of the fence bent outward, away from the garden. If an opossum tries to crawl on the bent part of the fence, the top will collapse under the opossum’s weight.
The university also recommends stretching an electrically-charged wire near the top of your fence, 3 inches out from the mesh.
9. Remove water source
Sometimes a water source, such as a birdbath or pet’s water bowl, can attract opossums to your yard overnight. Consider removing the water source or emptying the water at night.
10. Relocate bird feeders
Avoid hanging your bird feeders on a tree where opossums have easy access to birdseed as a food source. Consider attaching the bird feeders on a tall metal pole away from trees.
Opossums will easily wander into a live-trap. Check your state or local laws to determine the appropriately sized opossum trap to capture the animal, then set traps along walking trails or their travel routes. Baits include jam and peanut butter spread on bread, or overripe fruits.
The drawbacks of live-trapping include routine checking of the traps. It’s inhumane to leave an animal trapped for too long, and you may accidentally trap a non-targeted animal, like a cat or dog.
You will also need to deal with the animal once captured. Depending on where you live, you may need a permit to relocate the opossum.
12. Killing an opossum
Before choosing to kill the opossum, consider hiring a wildlife control operator. They are equipped to handle wildlife removal that is legal, humane, and safe. In many cases, the wildlife operator can find solutions to preserve the animal’s life.
If you kill the animal, you must follow all laws on humane killing.
How to Get Rid of Opossums with Chemicals
There are many chemical products you can use to repel various wildlife animals; however, there are no toxicants, fumigants, or repellents that control opossums.
Poison baits sold to control rodents should never be used to control opossums. The consequences of misusing a pesticide can be severe, and you risk poisoning someone’s pet. Never misuse a pesticide and always follow labeled instructions.
How to Get Rid of Opossums with Home Remedies
Many people like to use mothballs, naphthalene crystals, and household ammonia as home remedies to repel opossums. However, using these products in this manner is not recommended by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Here’s why: The chemicals are toxic to the soil, and their harmful fumes have the potential to enter buildings.
FAQ About Opossums
Opossums show a robust resistance to many viruses and rarely contract rabies, parvovirus, distemper, or feline hepatitis, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System says. However, opossums can carry many diseases, including leptospirosis, tuberculosis, relapsing fever, tularemia, spotted fever, toxoplasmosis, coccidiosis, trichomoniasis, and Chagas disease.
According to the Wildlife Medical Clinic at Illinois, the Virginia opossum has one of the lowest risks for developing and spreading rabies. Their low body temperature makes it difficult for the rabies virus to replicate within the opossum’s body.
Opossums may transmit diseases to pets and humans through scratches and bites. They may quickly attack you if they are startled, especially as a means to escape after playing dead.
An opossum’s urine and feces can also transmit several illnesses, such as leptospirosis and salmonella, so handle any waste matter with the proper precautions and care.
Mites, lice, ticks, and fleas often infest opossums and can transmit to your cat or dog.
Opossums do come with some benefits. Opossums can help keep your garden in check by slurping up snails and slugs. They’ll also assist you in pest management, frequently eating common pests and disease carriers like rats, cockroaches, and mice.
And because these critters are resistant to snake venom, poisonous snakes hiding in your grass can make an excellent food source for a hungry opossum.
When it comes to preserving or getting rid of opossums, you need to consider what pros and cons are important to you.
Opossums can be a real nuisance. These critters are nocturnal, so most of their bad behavior takes place at night.
They love a moonlit stroll through your garden, feeding on berries, grapes, nuts, and tree fruits. These scavengers may even visit their favorite romantic dining spots — your outdoor trash can and the cat food bowl.
After dinner, they will likely take a bathroom break on your lawn, patio, walkways, or flower beds. And in a moment of passion, they may get into fights with your dog or cat and cause serious injury with their ravaging teeth.
These omnivores will occasionally invade your chicken coop and eat eggs or chickens. They can tear insulation, chew on wires, and create or enlarge entry holes in your house, shed, or barn.
When to Call a Pest Control Pro
If you’re dealing with a committed opossum that refuses to leave, despite control measures, call a pest control near you. You may call a professional even before you put any defense measures in place.
A wildlife control operator is trained to remove wild animals from your home in a safe, humane, and legal manner. Some pest control companies may also provide animal control services.
If the opossum(s) appears sick, call a professional right away. Removing a sick opossum on your own puts your safety at risk. If an ill opossum fights with your pet, your pet may become infected as well.
A wildlife control operator will help to remove the animal as soon as possible. Signs of a sick opossum include fur loss, ulcers on the skin, foaming at the mouth, erratic behavior, trouble breathing, throwing up, or diarrhea.
Main Photo Credit: Cody Pope / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.5