Have you ever seen a possum? If you’re living in Virginia then you’ve probably seen one. A possum is a marsupial. This means the female carries its baby inside a pouch on her stomach. Yes! You got that right, just like a kangaroo. The female possum starts to get the babies riding on their backs when they reach about 4 to 5 months old. After that, they are set out on their own.
According to research, they were first introduced to New Zealand from Australia in 1837 to establish a fur trade. Who knew!
The Difference Between Opossums and Possums
You’ve probably heard your neighbor saying there are “possums” seen attacking chicken coops. You’ve even heard your mom saying there are “opossums” in the garbage cans. So what really is it? Are these animals called opossums or possums? Do both differ from one another?
Here’s the catch! There’s actually no difference between calling one an opossum or possum. This is because both are still the same species found mostly in North America. Both are also the same animal that enjoys ramming garbage cans, looking to eat pet food, and would probably eat chicken eggs once they see a crawl space to enter your chicken coops.
What's the Role of Possums in the Environment?
Possums were first spotted in Virginia a long time ago when a European explorer came to this part of the country. The colloquial term, Virginia opossum, was then coined to identify the only possum species type in the country.
So, what’s the role of possums in the environment? Let’s find out!
Possums are actually omnivores, aside from being nocturnal animals. This means they can eat both smaller animals and insects as well as plants. They can eat berries, vegetables, and other plants during the late summer months until winter. Meanwhile, their diet changes in spring and early summer. During this time, they enjoy fish, amphibians, birds, whole raw chicken eggs, reptiles, smaller mammals, and remains of other dead animals. They can also eat ticks. On average, a possum can eat 5,000 ticks annually.
Their food consumption makes possums an important part of maintaining balance in the ecosystem. As they also eat ticks, they can mitigate the tick population. We do know that tick bites are sources of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Chagas disease, and Lyme disease.
However, having too many possums in a single habitat can lead to them being pests rather than contributors to balancing the ecosystem. You should know how possums defend themselves when confronted with danger especially when you are planning to go for possum control in your area.
They can play dead copying how a dead animal looks or that of a sick animal nearing death. They can have their lips pulled back to show their teeth. In return, they secrete a foul smell and then faint. They can stay like this for a few minutes or even up to 4 hours. This can be regarded as their biological response when a wild animal comes to prey on them.
Are Possums Wild Animals or Pests?
As we already know the role of possums in the environment, it is safe to say that they indeed play a significant role in the environment. The thing is this significance dwindles as their number increases. Why? This is because possums would start looking for other food sources when they become too many in their own habitat. Food would be scarce among them. This is when they start going to trash cans in search of something edible that can best fit their diets. The same is true with many other wild animals. The moment they become too many is when you see some of them going down to residential zones in search of food.
We can also regard possums as opportunistic animals. They take every chance to feed the moment they see food sources available. Even as their natural habitat is the woodlands, they can move to urban zones where pet food is available and trash cans are abundant.
There will be times when opossums occasionally enter homes. If you have swinging pet doors, then don’t be surprised to see a possum enjoying your pet’s dog food stock. Human food has sustained possums over the years resulting in them thriving in yards.
Generally, a possum will only stop by your yard to eat and go. It can help eliminate other pests including slugs, small rodents, and insects. But when the winter weather takes its toll, opossums can move in your patio, garage or can even enter your attic to breed. They can even stay for months as long as there are sources of food.
Possums do not pose a threat by themselves. But there are few reasons why they should be in nature rather than keep them in as outdoor pets. You might think they are cute but they should never be handled directly. Here’s why they are considered outdoor pests instead of pets outdoors:
- They make a mess. Possums will go around looking for trash cans although are less likely to open them, unlike raccoons. They don’t overturn trash dumpsters but would be very happy to find accessible trash or compost to eat.
- They would eat your garden plants. Even as possums eat slugs, pests, and other smaller rodents, they might end up eating your garden plants as well. They enjoy vegetables as much as they love fruits.
- Possums can attack your house pets and even your kids. A possum would usually “play possum” when it senses any threat. But just like any other animal, it will not hesitate to counterattack once it feels the need to defend itself. It can attack through hissing and biting. This would mean approaching them can lead to injury. This is another reason why you should keep an eye on your children and pets when they are out in your yard.
- They also kill chickens, apart from eating their eggs. Possums have built a reputation of breaking chicken coops and devouring on their eggs. A coop can be an easy target for a possum especially when it has crawl spaces where it can get into. However, if there are other sources of food available, this behavior in possums may not be more common.
- They can die in your yard. Like others, possums can die on your property after staying too long in there. This can cause insects and other small animals to come and feast on its flesh bringing pest issues and diseases. Aside from that, a foul odor can also be smelled especially during decomposition stages.
On the other hand, rabies is a low chance issue when it comes to possums. This is because a possum’s body has a cooler temperature compared to other wildlife. When a possum plays dead to keep its predator away, people mistake their foaming and bared teeth to be signs of rabies infection. However, this is just their defense mechanism.
Getting Rid of Possums Fast
Possums are classified to be wild species often living in brush piles in the woodlands. Keeping them away from your property brings a lot of benefits for both you and the possums. You get to keep your property clean while helping them stay healthy. As we know, human food found inside a garbage dump can have negative effects on their health.
Here’s the good news: You don’t really need to do anything special to get rid of opossums. They are most likely to go away on their own after a day or two. The most recommended way to get rid of it is simply to let it be.
It will likely move somewhere else as soon as it finishes a meal. However, it would be another thing if your yard is infested with these creatures.
Meanwhile, if you suspect that you have a possum living permanently in your patio or yard, then you better start opossum control methods that can be helpful to address the situation.
They will probably show up every morning in your garden to feed on your plants. You would be really surprised taking a walk in your yard seeing your plants all torn up. Here are some tips on how to get rid of possums in your yard:
- Removing and returning possums to the wild. If you have confirmed that a possum is indeed living within your home, then you should immediately address the situation. This is the best thing you can do so far to keep your family safe. Depending on where it has set up a permanent home, you can attract possums to come to an open door or some crawl spaces leading them out. However, it is more complicated to launch the baited trap method. If you opt for trapping a possum, then it would be better to call a wildlife professional to take care of the problem.
- Prevent opossums from coming to your yard. Proper identification is key to be able to know what to change in your habit that probably attracts opossums to come. This will effectively keep them away instead of forcing them out which can eventually lead them to come back.
Remember never to kill possums whether it’s inside your house or out on your lawn. In many states, local laws have made this illegal. Also, you won’t be able to deny such action as these possums are the only species of their kind found in North America.
Most homeowners are able to get rid of possums on their own. Depending on the intensity of the possum problem, similar to coyotes keeping possums away can mostly be done without seeking professional help.
You will need some handyman skills, some new products to use such as a peanut butter spread, bird feeders, and chemical repellents to name a few. You will also need patience as other opossum control methods will require time to be carried out effectively.
On the other hand, while we say possums outdoors can be solved without professional help, having one inside your house requires immediate attention. When indoors, possums can pose more threats and can become more destructive. If you are attempting this on your own, you have to double your caution as this can be dangerous.
Remember that this is a wild animal and can show sudden unexpected behavior. You should also consult the local legislation as some would order the release of possums after they are trapped. If the issue is urgent, I’d recommend calling on professional services for pest control and to eliminate opossums.
Effective Ways to Get Rid of Possums
So the breeding season begins for possums. Unfortunately, they have been coming to your yard, finding your home abundant in terms of food along with other wildlife animals looking for food. To prevent possums from entering your house or even eliminate them, do the following:
- You get to use the trapping method. This will be possible using commercial and DIY methods. Simply use bait along with some live trap. You will often find possums searching for food inside a trash can. So, you can set up a bait nearby to easily get it trapped. However, this may take some time as you would have to wait for a possum to go in the trap to get the bait inside.
- Try managing their prospect habitat. As we’ve already discussed, possums come to places where sources of food are abundant. That’s probably the reason why they keep coming to your yard. But as soon as you identify common opossum needs, you can remove these and make them less habitable for them.
- Exclude possums from entering your home. Another form of pest control is by physically closing any opening that can get possums in your house. You can try to fix broken vents to make sure they don’t get in through this as their passage. You can also contact local home improvement companies to help you determine and fix any open areas that can get these creatures in your indoor spaces.
- Contact professional wildlife control. If the work gets too difficult and your possum problem has worsened, it would be best to get professionals to do the job for you. They can handle getting rid of possums starting from trapping, exclusion, and other methods deemed effective to get the opossum inside your premises finally out.
There may be cases that would require immediate action especially when it is already posing dangers to you and your family. Thus, do not hesitate to call wildlife pest control services. A dead possum in your property can carry diseases during its decomposition stage. They can also be aggressive in response to threats and can put your household at risk.
Effective opossum control methods you can do on your own
Possums do not pose great threats and as we’ve discussed, they are likely to leave your premises on their own. You can keep them away using simple yet cost-effective ways. Getting rid of opossums will require which goal you want to achieve.
Would you like to just protect a certain area in the garden? Would you like to completely eliminate them? These are some of the questions that you should be able to answer to make your approach more effective.
The first step is to determine that you are really dealing with opossums and not some other animals. As these animals are nocturnal, you might not be able to see them.
Instead, you will see signs of them being there. You will notice unpleasant odors, scattered garbage, missing pet food, or damaged crops and plants in the garden. When you’ve heard noises at night like hissing or see compost heaps rugged out in the backyard, then there’s probably an opossum in your area.
The moment you are certain it is indeed an opossum causing this trouble, then you can follow these preventative measures:
- Conduct a yard inspection. Walk around your yard thoroughly to reveal where opossums might have built their residence or even their own nests. Remember that these creatures will eat nearly everything. So you can also check for accessible food within the suspected area.
- Eliminate a nesting opossum. If you found out that there is indeed an opossum in the area, give them a few days to leave by encouraging them. You don’t need to even trap them. If you don’t address the availability of a nearby source of food, then they are most likely to come back to your garden.
- Use pet fur. Opossums are secretive animals and will avoid areas where it suspects predators are. If you put pet fur around your yard, then the scent will tell opossums that there are other animals in the area. For sure, if your pet dog has been peeing near your garden, an opossum can surely think it’s predator urine after smelling it. Don’t get me wrong here. You should never leave your pet outside just for them to pee and get that predator urine method going to deter opossums.
- Monitor your area even after you’re sure you’ve gotten rid of opossums. Check out for more signs whether or not an opossum is still on your property.
Not every pest control method will be necessary to do at home. However, a full mitigation approach can be used when you’re looking to eliminate opossums in your yard along with other wildlife.
Can I use chemical repellents to rid possums?
Have you ever tried using chemical repellent as scare tactics? You can apply chemical repellent to areas where opossums can possibly enter. This will prevent them from entering or re-entering your house.
This can be a good pest control strategy that would work as a scare tactic as well because opossums do not like the smell of these repelling substances.
Use repellents. There are different natural and chemical repellents as well as electronic repellents available in the market for pest control. You can make use of these to eliminate your opossum problem.
These are not harmful substances so you don’t need to worry about getting them harmed. These chemical repellents work to discourage opossums from coming to your property. A great advantage in using any repellents including electronic repellents is that they work immediately in repelling opossums. However, to continue its effectiveness, you will have to constantly reapply these substances.
Is pet food effective to trap possums?
There are so many traps available as part of the pest control services that you can try at home. You can get a commercial trap mostly available in shops or make a DIY trap instead. Aside from that, you can also use the food trail method to get an opossum to leave your property.
You can leave dog or cat food trails to lure them to the direction where they can exit. However, you have to make sure that other animals do not eat your food trail. Otherwise, your opossum trap will be ineffective.
A fish canned food is also a good opossum bait aside from dog or cat food. Peanut butter non-toxic paste also attracts these animals into the trap. Check your traps day and night for any captured opossum. After checking with your local laws, you can release the opossum several miles away from your property.
Natural ways opossum repellents
Getting physical changes in your garden along with putting up barriers can be more effective rather than using chemical substances. These unnatural substances can be used as an add-on measure. You can also try natural ways including:
- Ammonia. All you have to do is have a jar filled with ammonia. Then, cut a hole on its lid and leave a rag soak inside. This will release smell in the area. However, be careful not to use this around your pets as this can be toxic for them. You should also take caution as this can cause irritation on your skin.
- Spicy peppers and garlic. This is among other methods used to repel opossums. You can place minced spicy peppers or garlic inside a spray bottle and spray it on areas where you suspect opossums can be. You can also leave cloves of garlic in your yard as opossums hate the smell and taste of it or have it hanged in low-lying tree branches or tie it around tree trunks. Opossums might mistake it for overripe fruit. They can take a bite and you’d be lucky if this drives them away in an instant.
There are limited scientific findings of how effective home remedies are. One thing is for sure, this will have very minimal side effects on your health and can cost cheaper in getting rid of those opossums around your home.
Calling Professional wildlife control to get rid of possums
How many DIY methods have you tried so far to get rid of opossums? If you think none has worked so far, and the need to be addressed requires immediate action, then calling for professional help might just be the answer. Although opossums are regarded as an animal that helps to keep the balance in the ecosystem especially when they eat ticks bringing relapsing fever, they can also be regarded as pests when they’ve already reached our inner homes.
Seeking expert help can address the matter quickly through their experience and knowledge on how to get rid of opossums forever. There are wildlife contact centers around your area that offer removal services. You can try to contact them but be careful to choose a licensed and insured company that also treats opossums humanely.
Trapping and removing possums
A reputable animal removing company will use live traps without killing the opossums. They do this by administering live traps or simply by hand. After that, they will bring the creature several miles away from your home. They will also clean up the nest debris created and left by the animal.
Professional services are reliable as they are equipped with the following:
- Knowledge. A wildlife company has enough knowledge and experience with regard to opossums. This is very crucial to understand the animal’s feelings and behavior. In return, professionals can easily set a trap and capture them. They are also aware of local opossums’ regulations and laws about removing the animal.
- Equipment. Professionals also bring with them their own equipment. This will save you costs and effort in removing the animal by yourself unlike if you buy a new set of motion-activated sprinklers and have it installed just to scare the opossums away. Also, they are highly trained in using this equipment to handle opossum removal.
- Safety. Above all, they will be able to handle the animal’s behavior which can prevent greater dangers. This will eliminate the risks on your end of getting attacked by an opossum.
Excluding possums from your home
Aside from opossum removal, some professional service companies can offer animal exclusion as well. They will use many of their tactics to perform exclusion. They will first inspect your yard to determine why possums keep on coming. Then they will remove areas where these animals can get in. They will also recommend what not to do to avoid attracting possums into the property.
They will also be able to detect the smallest problem in the area and will give you suitable recommendations on what to further do. If you’ve tried a lot of times to get rid of possums using DIY methods but have failed to do so, then calling professionals can be the best for you.
Opossums are expanding as they continuously move to find food. People’s food has also sustained their diet which can be a good reason why they keep digging out the trash for something edible. Nevertheless, possums are still prevalent in the southeastern part of the US.
Finding a wildlife control service provider can be easily down. Simply browse the web and key in your queries. Don’t forget to add the location where you are now. For sure, you will be able to get the best rates, emergency service availability, guaranteed services, and much other relevant information.
FAQ about getting rid of possums
What will keep possums away?
The smell of garlic and spice peppers can drive opossums away. This is because they hate the smell of garlic the most. Also if you set up motion-activated sprinklers or lights, these can scare them away. Don’t forget to leave dog or cat fur in the area as they will think other predators are nearby.
What is the fastest way to get rid of a possum?
The fastest way to get rid of an opossum is actually letting it be. This is because they would just eat a meal and simply go away after. However, if they’ve figured your patio, yard or attic can be a good residential spot where food is abundant, then they’ve been building their hubs instead of living inside brush piles in the woodlands.
Are possums bad to have around?
Opossums are not actually bad to have around. This is contrary to the idea that they might bring deadly diseases including rabies. Most people mistake their foaming mouth with teeth protruding out to be a sign of a rabies infection when in fact it is only doing a biological response to danger.
Also, they can mitigate ticks that bring deadly diseases. However, if they have entered your house already causing potential danger to your pets and family members, then I don’t think they are good to have around.
How do you get rid of possums under your house?
Opossums, just like many other animals, have a tendency to be aggressive. You cannot just throw in some tree branches onto it and hope it will be scared and run away. Of course, its tendency is to fight back and attack.
This is why the best option you have is to call for professional animal services whenever you’ve ascertained that opossums are under your house, breeding. This is a safer move compared to handling it by yourself.