Nuisance Opossum Removal & Management Solutions

Image of opossum that has infested a home

Opossums are the only marsupial wildlife species that can be found in North America. With the exception of the Rockies, Western Plains, and parts of the Northern United States, they live in most parts of the U.S.

Typically, opossums live alone and are active at night only. Though a relative of the kangaroo, opossums are much slower and when attacked, emit a nauseating smell.

By virtue of their flexible diets and reproductive habits, these wild animals are able to live in a wide variety of environments and locations across North America. 1Go To Source pestworld.org -“Opossum

The opossum species is well known for playing dead when a threat is detected and is typically seen as passive species. When dealing with an opossum infestation, take all safety precautions during opossum removal to ensure diseases are not contracted during the removal process.

How To Identify An Opossum

Opossums are around the size of a large house cat, varying in weight from 4 to 12 pounds. Opossums vary between 2 and 3 feet in length. The most common opossum species in North America is the Virginia Opossum. 

With a slender snout which ends with a pink nose, the head of the opossum is elongated. The hair on the animal’s face is white and short. There are also head markings represented by three dark streaks: one stripe running along the midline of the crown and one running across it.

Opossums are distinguishable at a distance by a long, rat-like, tapered, scaly tail that holds just a few scattered hairs. Generally, the tail is less than 90 percent of the length of the head and neck. It is normally covered at its base with fur that is black in color and naked for the rest of its length. The latter area varies in color from white-yellow to white-pink.

Generally, males are heavier/larger than females. This is due to the variation of size in two distinct groups within the opossum population.

The very big females tend to have huge offspring and smaller-sized females tend to have tiny offspring. At weaning, juveniles from the larger female can be twice the size of those from the smaller female.
2Go To Source uaex.edu -“The Opossum: It’s Amazing Story”

How Long Will An Opossum Live?

The life expectancy of an opossum is roughly 11/2 years in the wild. Few opossums reach age 5 due to predators and humans urbanizing rural areas. 3Go To Source pgc.pa.gov -“Opossum”

Top 5 Opossum Predators:

  • Foxes
  • Owls
  • Bobcats
  • Hawks
  • Humans (typically vehicles)

Where Will Opossums Establish Dens?

Photo of a family of opossumsOpossums can be found in open forests, water-side farmlands, and in suburban/urban areas. As humans develop rural areas, opossums begin to migrate from dens in the wild to shelters built by humans.

In the wild opossums find homes in abandoned burrows, tree cavities, hollow logs, and piles of brush. Opossums also use houses, sheds, garages, and other buildings as shelter in urban areas.

Opossums are nomadic and do not seem to den for consecutive nights in the same place unless they are raising their young. 4Go To Source mass.gov-“Learn About Opossums”

What Do Opossums Eat?

Opossums are omnivorous (eat both plant and animal matter) and not too finicky about what they eat.

Insects, dead animals, birds, larvae, frogs, snails, and earthworms are included in the animal’s diet. They also consume fruits and berries, especially in the fall and early winter.

During winter, corn is a big part of their diet. In urban areas, food sources include bird food and leftovers thrown out by humans in garbage cans are popular fare for the animals. 5Go To Source illinois.gov -“Opossum”

Disease Carried By The Opossum

Opossums are leptospirosis carriers, a bacterial disease that begins with flu-like symptoms. Leptospirosis can cause damage to the kidneys, meningitis, liver failure, and respiratory problems if left untreated. The disease is spread by urine and feces.

Many mammals are susceptible, including cats, dogs, and pose a health risk to humans. Keep pets vaccinated against leptospirosis to stop contamination and use chlorine to clean up nuisance wildlife urine and feces. 6Go To Source vetmed.illinois.edu-“Opossum”

Can Opossums Be A Beneficial Species?

Opossums consume common household pests that may be infectious disease carriers.

Household Pests Opossums Consume Include: 

  • beetles
  • snails
  • rats
  • cockroaches
  • mice
  • slugs

Opossums also consume insects that can wreak havoc on your backyard garden, in addition to eradicating common household pests. They will also help pick up any fruits or berries that may have fallen to the wayside that are overripe.

The opossum is immune to snake venom, making venomous animals a safe food source for the opossum family. The opossum will prey on the timber rattlesnake and southern/northern copperheads.

The opossum has one of the lowest chances of acquiring and transmitting rabies among the many native species of wildlife that can appear in your backyard. This is because of the opossum’s naturally low body temperature (94o to 97o F), making it hard for the rabies virus to replicate inside the opossum’s body.

By default, they are also scavengers, and their preference for carrion builds their immunity to disease. 7Go To Source vetmed.illinois.edu -“The Helpful Opossum”

Opossum Damage To The Home

Opossum damage typically occurs in crops, gardens, and homes.

The animals will eat any crop on farms/gardens that is easily reachable. Damage to crops can be identified by teeth marks and scraps left behind. Plants/vegetables left unprotected are at risk to be invaded by opossums.

Damage to homes occurs when opossums are searching for shelter either for warmth or a safe place to birth they’re young. They enter homes through gaps in the structure such as the chimney, crawl spaces, and broken shingles.

Once inside the home, the animals will use any materials to build a nest. Frequent damage includes destroyed insulation and feces/urine left behind. Wildlife droppings can seep into the structure of the home and may carry disease.

Opossum Prevention

Picture of opossum removed by a wildlife proEliminating food sources should be the first step taken in preventing opossums. Bring in pet food at night.

If a property contains fruit trees, pick up fallen fruit. Maintain poultry yards and houses properly. Protect gardens with fencing or walls.

Opossums enjoy darkness and normally avoid places that are well lit. Keeping a yard well lit will greatly affect wild animals’ decision to explore that area.

Eliminate hiding places by placing fencing under decks, sheds, and other hiding locations. The fencing should be bent outward, reaching about two feet, and then buried a few inches below the surface. Securing pet doors will prevent entry to the home. 8Go To Source wildlife.unl.edu -“wildlife.unl.edu”

Removing An Opossum In The Home

The removal of any wildlife species should be done humanely and safely. An opossum in the home should be handled with care since wild animals can be unpredictable.

If the homeowner is unfamiliar with nuisance wildlife removal getting rid of opossums can prove difficult, and it may be best to have a wildlife removal professional handle the situation. Experienced opossum removal technicians have equipped with the proper equipment and knowledge to ensure a safe/efficient removal process.

Acting quickly once an infestation is identified can minimize damage. A few simple steps may save the homeowner money on repair or removal costs.

What To Do If A Opossum Has Entered The Home

  1. At a distance, identify where the animal is located
  2. Listen or observe the animals (determine if multiple animals are in the home)
  3.  Check the exterior of the home for entry points
  4. Contact a wildlife control company for advice on animal removal (or for opossum removal services)

 

Sources:

  1. Opossum Facts: Removal & Control of Opossums – PestWorld. (n.d.). Retrieved December 03, 2020, from https://www.pestworld.org/pest-guide/nuisance-wildlife/opossums/
  2. Krause, W. (2005, January). The Opossum: Its Amazing Story. Retrieved December 03, 2020, from https://www.uaex.edu/environment-nature/wildlife/docs/The_Opossum_Its_Amazing_Story.pdf
  3. Opossum. (n.d.). Retrieved December 03, 2020, from https://www.pgc.pa.gov/Education/WildlifeNotesIndex/Pages/Opossum.aspx
  4. Learn about opossums. (n.d.). Retrieved December 03, 2020, from https://www.mass.gov/service-details/learn-about-opossums
  5. Opossum. (n.d.). Retrieved December 03, 2020, from https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/conservation/wildlife/Pages/Opposum.aspx
  6. Wildlife Medical Clinic at Illinois. (n.d.). Retrieved December 03, 2020, from https://vetmed.illinois.edu/wildlife/wildlife-help-and-resources/opossum/
  7. Maurer, S. (2019, June 05). Wildlife Medical Clinic at Illinois. Retrieved December 03, 2020, from https://vetmed.illinois.edu/wildlife/2019/06/05/the-helpful-opossum-2/
  8. Vantassel, S., Hygnstrom, S., Ferraro, D., & Wilson, S. (2007). Controlling Raccoon & Opossum Damage. Retrieved December 03, 2020, from https://wildlife.unl.edu/pdfs/controlling-raccoon-opossum-damage.pdf