Listen…is that scratching in the attic, your vegetable plot destroyed or garbage cans toppled over and trash spread around your garden. They’re a nuisance for sure, but are Opossums Dangerous?
We wanted to settle this question once and for all. Do Opossums deserve the bad press, or are they really Koala bears in disguise?
If you have an Opossum problem, consider this article the only guide you need to do away with your possum-related woes.
Let’s find out, are opossums dangerous…
The Difference Between Possum and Opossum
The opossum is a native animal of North America while Possums have their roots in Australasia. They are both marsupials and overtime, the terms ‘possum’ and ‘opossum’ have been used interchangeably in the USA to refer to them.
They are both marsupials, meaning they give birth to underdeveloped young who live inside the mother’s pouch. Let’s compare the biological difference between possum and opossums.
Black, Grey, and White coloration with pink noses and jet black eyes. The American Opossum is from a different genetic linage to the Australasian Possum. These hissing scavengers are visually different and in a more aggressive fashion.
Generally has a more rounded body shape with thick golden grey fur and brown eyes. The Possum appears a more cute animal in comparison to the rodent type features of the American Opossum.
American Opossum: Didelphimorphia Didelphidae
Australasian Possum: Trichosurus Vulpecula (Common Brushtail Possum)
30-60cm in length
Opossum: Long pointed snout
Possum: Rounded body shape
Number of Legs
Opossums have two jet black eyes
Possums have a two chestnut brown eyes
Opossum: Grey with white and black coloration
Possum: Golden brown thick fur
Solitary nomadic animals staying in one area for as long as food, and water are sustainable. Opossums are renown for ‘playing possum’ when threatened the animal will pay deal and lay on the ground replicating the smell of a dead animal
Woodland in hollow trees or in urban areas reside in residents attics or other areas with shelter such as under decks or in garages
All that being said to the vast majority of this article will be applicable to both Possums and Opossums.
Are Opossums Dangerous?
As you might already know, opossums are the size of a house cat or a small dog, and because of this, most people, including you, might have certain reservations about them.
It’s not unnatural to feel this way.
But guess what? There isn’t much you need to worry about where opossums are concerned.
Take a deep breath and sit back comfortably while we deep dive into their characteristics to decode their ‘threat to human’ status once and for all.
Are Opossums Aggressive?
They say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. We say, don’t judge an opossum by its size.
According to The Humane Society, opossums are rarely aggressive. Contrary to what most of you might believe, they are naturally timid animals.
They are not aggressive unless cornered, so you might want to go gentle on your friendly neighborhood possum. Give them room and aim to stay away from them. We’ll explain ‘why’ later!
On the rare occasion that you manage to provoke one, you might see a possum hiss, growl, show teeth, or exude a repulsive, smelly, greenish musk-like fluid from its anal glands. They do this as a tactic to keep their predators away, so chill.
As long as you’re not locking horns with them, you should be fine.
So to answer the question ‘Are opossums dangerous?’, here’s what we think:
All things considered, we’d say that a possum is not a dangerous animal. Moreover, it is very rare that a possum will attack you, though this is not completely off the table either. So don’t unnecessarily provoke them.
Do Opossums Bite
Opossums are animals. Of course they bite!
But the real question you should be asking here is this:
‘Do possums bite without provocation?’
And to this, we say no.
Like we discussed earlier unless they feel cornered, are teased, hit, or provoked; you won’t be in harm’s way as long as a possum is kept at a sensible distance from you.
Opossum Rabies and Other Risks
An opossum is not necessarily dangerous, but that does not mean that it comes with health risks.
Like it or not, possums can give you rabies which means that you need to take proper measures if a possum bites or scratches you. While this is highly unlikely, seek medical advice from a doctor immediately if it happens.
They are also carriers of a number of other diseases such as relapsing fever, tuberculosis, spotted fever, Chagas disease among many others, making them a significant health risk.
The bad news doesn’t end there.
If you have pets, we advise you to keep them at a safe distance from opossums as the marsupial may be infested with fleas, ticks, mites, or lice!
In other words, if a possum gets in close proximity with your pet, you will have more than just an opossum infestation to deal with. You’ll have to deal with ticks, fleas, and lice.
What Do Opossums Eat?
Opossums are true omnivores and as such, have a vibrant and expansive diet.
They feed on all types of food such as fruits, plants, insects, nuts, birds, frogs, eggs, small mammals like mice, fresh meat, road kills. On the upside, they will also eat snakes, rats, and other pests on and around your property.
Given that they can and will try to eat almost anything, no food is safe from them. Not your pet food and certainly not your flourishing vegetable garden either!
What Attracts Opossums Into Your Yard
Like most wild animals their priority is food and shelter. As opossums forage for easy food items they may well find opportunities in your yard or garden. Let’s look at what could be drawing them in and see how you can best manage the impact of the intruder.
Let’s not forget that they are omnivorous and they aren’t picky. Anything edible is a potential source of attraction.
You might see possums scavenging for food scraps in your trash. Loose garbage bags or rubbish not in sealed storage will attract opossums. Once they know there’s a free meal in that spot, you can’t blame them for visiting it every night for a free lunch.
If you have pets, there’s a good chance pet food will act as an opossum magnet. Whether its dog or cat food bowls, rabbit food, or chicken feed. It’s all easy pickings when it’s laying on the surface of the floor and not moving. A much easier option than catching a rodent.
Since possums are familiar with seeing people, there’s the potential risk of them entering your homes through a pet door.
It is possible that another form of a small rodent or insect infestation could be the cause of frequent possum activity. Look our for signed of rodent holes in your land, or insect nests in or around ground level.
If you have a vegetable garden, take measures to keep it protected from possums. Consider using high raised beds or planter. Surround your plot with chicken wire fencing or ultrasonic repellent devices.
Once you have Opossums on your land there is a very real risk they will enter your home. Through pet doors, climbing wall vegetation, tearing the eves of your attack, or finding a small hole and squeezing in.
Look out for infestations in your attic, garage, outhouse, or underneath decking. The basic instincts of an animal looking for shelter, warmth, and safety, within close proximity to a regular food source, all give us a reasonable indication where the pest may be hiding.
Do Opossums Kill Chickens
Given the opportunity to feed from a trash can or vegetable plot, versus going into battle with a scratching chicken. The vegetable plot looks like the most simple meal.
But to answer the question, yes. Opossums will kill chickens.
They are however scavengers and generally survive on roadkill and foraged food. Perhaps don’t think of them as instinctive chicken killers, say like a fox. But if other food sources have been rendered totally exhausted and unavailable, it’s possible they would kill your chickens.
Signs Of Opossums Infestation
It is possible that your land is already infested with possums. If you are unsure lookout for these top three signs of opossum infestations:
Frequent Animal Sounds And Loud Scratching Noises
Possums give out an unmissable hiss and shriek. Scuttling, ripping, and screeching noises will also be audible. You might probably suspect a rat or a mouse at first, but if the shriek is loud or the movement sounds heavy, it is most probably an opossum.
Disappearing Pet Food
If you’re experiencing the sudden unexpected disappearance of pet food each morning. It a good indication you have an unwelcome guest. Any pet food left unattended overnight will be taken without hesitation.
Pervasive unpleasant smell
If you’re wondering if you have a possum infestation in your attic, track the smell! Opossums are known to defecate more frequently than most mammals, and their faecal droppings can soak into insulation and building materials, causing an unpleasant odor. Find the smell, and you’ll find the possum.
What Does Opossum Poop Look Like
Opossums are scavengers and eat just about anything which makes it hard to decode if the poop you have found in your attic, or your garden, or your front yard, actually belongs to a possum.
Why is this important?
It is important because being able to identify if the poop that’s wasting away in your home belongs to a possum will tell you if you have a possum problem and this in turn will help you get rid of it!
So to help you figure this out, we have compiled a quick checklist of the most visible characteristics of an opossum poop:
- Big droplets of uninterrupted poop. Opossum poop is sausage-like in shape with multiple droppings in a pile.
- Opossum poop will not contain seed
- The color of opossum poop comes in the range of greenish-brown to rich dark brown and black color depending on what the possum ate before defecating.
Opossums are generally solitary creatures who keep to themselves. But in the company of fellow opossums, these animals can prove to be pretty loud and creepy.
If you hear these sounds, and if these sounds are more than just audible, you probably have a possum infestation.
Read on to learn what you can do to get rid of them – once and for all!
Where Do Opossums Sleep
Unlike humans, opossums are not very picky about where they sleep.
From abandoned shelters, to tree caveats and bush piles, to beneath dense cover. You can find possums nesting away in any place that is sheltered and vacant.
You might also find them fast asleep in an abandoned burrow in broad daylight. Under your decking hunched in a corner, or in a tree hollow.
Are Opossums Nocturnal
Opossums are nocturnal. They sleep during the day and actively hunt or scavenge for food at night.
During the night time activity its possible to catch an opossum off guard, and trap it. We will come to that shortly.
Do Opossums Hibernate
Opossums do not hibernate, but they are certainly known to get a little laid back during the winters.
While they are furry animals, it is not easy for these marsupials to brave the bitter cold because of their hairless tail, paws, and ears.
Since opossums don’t have a habit of hoarding food for winters, you might come across an occasional possum in broad daylight, particularly in winters when food sources might get too scarce.
So, you’ll have a much better time tracking them during the daytime in the winter months than you would during the daytime in summer.
How To Trap A Possum Safely
If you have made it to this section, there’s a strong possibility that you have a possum infestation at home or suspect that you do.
Either way, read on and learn how to trap an opossum safely.
Opossum And Possum Traps
Given opossums are active during the night and low light hours, it will be difficult or near impossible to trap them in the daytime. For best results prepare to trap them during night time when they’re mobile and more confident.
Place the trap along a perimeter wall in areas of opossum activity or where you can see visible signs or Opossum damage.
We know Opossums love to scavenge, so for best results make sure you remove all accessible food sources other than the bait you placer within the trap. Otherwise, your baited trap may remain unexplored.
Follow our 5 simple steps on How To Trap A Possum and before you know it, you’ll have a trapped that possum!
How To Trap A Possum or Opossum
- Set the trap out on an even surface where possible, Ideally place the trap against a wall or perimeter boundary where the animal is likely to be active
- The trap can be baited with fruit, cat food, or another food source. Do not place the bait on the trigger plate. Place the bait at the furthest point inside the trap to ensure the possum is fully enclosed inside the trap cage
- Arm the Possum Trap following the manufacturer’s instructions. This will usually be by setting a wire and loop mechanism that will be released when the possum stands on the trigger plate. This will release the spring-loaded door to snap shut
- Traps should be checked at least once per day to ensure the good keeping of any trapped possums or to check if the bait is still present
- When a possum is trapped, we recommend wearing bite and scratch protective handling gloves. Transporting the possum to woodland for safe release. Be sure to release the possum several miles away from your property to avoid it returning
Bite Proof Gloves
With any disease-carrying animal, it is important to wear protective equipment when handling. We recommend a thick and robust pair of animal handling gloves.
How To Scare Possums Away From Your House
Be it in your home or in your garden – you don’t want possums hovering around, no matter how harmless they may be.
From making unpleasant sounds to leaving terrible smells to wreaking total havoc on your precious vegetable or fruit garden, opossums can turn into a bit of a nuisance if their movements are left unchecked and unsupervised.
If you don’t want to trap you possum, it may be possible to deter it or scare it away. However, this method is somewhat hit and miss with Opossums and can be short-lived. The only guaranteed way to remove them is by trapping.
To give you the best chance of success we have put together a helpful list to help you deter Opossums. Read on.
We will now cover the two most effective Opossum deterrents with the intention of helping you intimidate your opossum into moving out
- Ultrasonic Repeller
- Deterrent Mat
Ultrasonic pest repellers are small electronic devices that send out high-frequency sounds with the intention of scaring and deterring wild animals, rodents and other household pests.
There have been some debating the true effectiveness of these devices in scientific lab experiments. Manufacturers also seem to be pretty open to the fact that this device is not 100% guaranteed to work in all cases.
However, when browsing through customer and user reviews, around 80% of customer report a satisfactory experience.
Pest Control experts will advise using a combination of traps and ultrasonic repeller devices. Here at The Garden and Yard, we recommend starting with a trap for a fast and reliable outcome. Supplement this with a repeller device in local areas of concern. For example, place a solar-powered repeller near your vegetable plot or near your swinging pet door.
As the name suggests, this product is designed to ‘repel’ or keeps away pests, rodents, or insects that might be infesting your home or your outer space.
If your main concern is protecting a small area or an access point then a deterrent mat is a convenient and simple option.
How does it work? Simple.
It is a plastic mat with molded plastic spikes protruding from its surface. This is intended to discourage any animal from stepping on it. So, if used effectively it’s a blockade, making it an effective solution for keeping possums at a safe distance from the places you don’t want them loitering.
We recommend deterrent mats around the home to prevent opossum from entering. Maybe around garage roofs, across door thresholds, and around outhouses
A deterrent mat will not harm the opossum. It will simply nudge the animal in the direction where you want them to be i.e. far away from you and your property!
In Summary Are Opossums Dangerous
In summary, I think we are safe to conclude that opossums in themselves are not dangerous creatures. However, the diseases they carry can pose a moderate risk, but that’s no different from so many other household pests. In short, if they are handled with respect using the correct equipment, opossums present a low risk to homeowners.