Possums living on residential property can be a huge nuisance. They can cause damage to our homes and lawns, dig through our trash cans, and even spread diseases.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s come face to face with a hungry possum scurrying through their backyard, shed, or garage. While I have enough experience with these critters to know not to panic, it’s only natural to ask questions like: Are possums dangerous? Will they attack people or pets unprovoked? And do possums bite and transmit viruses such as rabies?
The answers to those questions depends on several different factors. Here’s what I think you need to know about possums and how to co-exist with them safely.
- Are Possums Dangerous To Humans Or Pets?
- Feces And Urine
- Ticks, Fleas, And Parasites
- Property Damage from Possums
- What To Do If You Encounter A Possum
- The Difference Between Possums and Opossums
- Safely Co-Existing With Opossums
- FAQ's Possum Behavior
Are Possums Dangerous To Humans Or Pets?
Do you have a possum infestation in your home or yard? As is true of all wildlife, these mammals can pose a risk to you, your family, and your pets.
The possums living on your property can leave behind piles of feces and urine. These droppings may contain viruses and parasites that can infect humans, livestock, or pets.
However, the risk of contracting such diseases is relatively low, and possums in themselves are generally not dangerous to humans. You just have to use common sense when interacting with these animals and their messes.
If you have pets or livestock wandering freely in your yard, then a potential conflict can occur. In my experience, though, it’s the domestic animals that tend to instigate (we all know a house cat or dog that’s too big for its britches!).
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Are Possums Aggressive?
Possums are typically very docile. These marsupials will rarely attack unless provoked.
When a possum feels threatened, their first instinct is to “play possum,” or pretend they are dead. Attacking a predator as a line of defense is usually a possum’s final resort.
So as long as you don’t intentionally corner a possum in your yard, the chances of them attacking you are incredibly slim.
Do Possums Bite?
Because they are such a docile species, possums seldom bite humans or pets. However, if they feel like they are in danger and their first line of defense does not work, they may use their teeth in self-defense.
Possums have a set of fifty razor-sharp teeth. Before they bite, they often bare these teeth as a warning, and if you don’t back off, they can give a pretty painful bite.
Are Possums Rabid?
Rabies is a rare disease in all animals. But, according to the Humane Society, this virus is especially rare in possums. This is because possums have a very low body temperature, which makes it difficult for their bodies to host the rabies virus.
If you have possums living on your property, the chances of them transmitting rabies to you or your pets are slim to none.
However, it is still technically possible for them to host the rabies virus, even if it is extremely rare. If you notice a possum is showing signs of rabies such as aggressive behavior or staggering whilst walking, then contact your local animal control or wildlife rehabilitation service.
What To Do If A Possum Bites You
While rabies is rare in possums, there are other diseases and infections that can be delivered through a possum bite. And even if the possum is perfectly healthy, their mouth is full of bacteria that will cause you problems.
If a possum bites you, you should thoroughly wash the injury with soap and warm water. You can also apply some antiseptic to prevent the risk of infection.
After you’ve taken care of your bite wound, contact your doctor immediately. They can help evaluate whether you will need a tetanus shot or other medical treatment.
Remember: Even cat and dog bites can easily transmit diseases. All animal bites should be taken seriously and monitored for signs of infection.
Feces And Urine
Possums that live on your property can leave behind feces and urine. These droppings can give your home and property a strong, unpleasant smell. Perhaps more of a concern is that they can often carry viruses or diseases.
If you see any possum droppings on your property, make sure your kids know not to touch it. You should also supervise your pets when they go outdoors — I know raccoon and possum droppings are my dog’s personal favorite scents. Clear the possum feces while wearing gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
It’s worth detailing a few of the possible diseases that possums spread through their feces or urine:
Leptospirosis is a rare bacterial infection that can spread through the urine of possums.
Many animals, including humans, pets, chickens, and other small livestock, can catch this infection when they come into contact with an infected possum’s urine.
If you catch leptospirosis, you can expect symptoms such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Chills and aching muscles
In some mild cases, people with leptospirosis don’t experience any symptoms. But in more severe cases, especially in children, the elderly, or people with weakened immune systems, leptospirosis can lead to kidney failure, meningitis, or even death.
Salmonella is a bacteria that often lives in the intestines of possums. Most people associate this bacteria with food-borne illness. However, you can also catch this illness when you come in contact with possum droppings.
According to the CDC, symptoms of salmonella can include:
- Abdominal pain
Fortunately, most people recover from a mild case of salmonella without any complications. But if you are immuno-compromised or experience severe symptoms, it can potentially be deadly. If you are experiencing symptoms of salmonella, you should contact a medical professional as soon as possible.
Mycobacteria is a group of bacteria that can cause a variety of diseases, including tuberculosis. Possums can host these bacteria in their bodies and, while rare, they can sometimes be spread to humans or other animals through close contact, bites, or feces.
Symptoms of tuberculosis include:
- Persistent cough
- Coughing up blood
- Unexpected weight loss
- Pain in chest
- Shortness of breath
- Night sweats
If you have any symptoms of tuberculosis, contact a medical professional immediately. If you don’t seek treatment, this virus can be deadly.
What Does Possum Poop Look Like?
Because their droppings look similar to the feces of small dogs, cats, or raccoons, identifying possum poop can be difficult.
In general, possum droppings tend to be up to 2 inches long and ¾ inch in diameter. They have a dark brown color, and they may contain fragments of seeds or insects.
You may often find possum poop in piles in your yard or home. Their waste can give off a strong ammonia smell as well.
Ticks, Fleas, And Parasites
Possums can host a variety of parasites such as ticks, fleas, toxoplasmosis, and more. These parasites can spread to humans, pets, and livestock when they come into contact with a possum or its feces.
These kinds of parasites can cause a nuisance at best. In some cases, they can even spread illnesses. Ticks have a reputation for spreading Lyme disease, and fleas can carry diseases like the bubonic plague. Toxoplasmosis can pose a huge risk for people who are pregnant.
If you have a possum infestation on your property, it’s important to keep your pets and livestock safe. Make sure all of your animals are up to date on their vaccines and provide flea or tick treatment when necessary.
These parasites can affect humans, too. But as long as you avoid touching possum waste and don’t come into contact with the animals themselves, your chances of catching these parasites are quite low.
Property Damage from Possums
While these animals can pose a risk to your health and safety, it isn’t the main problem that comes with possum infestations.
If they make themselves at home on your property, these marsupials can be pretty destructive.
That’s why it’s important to catch a possum infestation early. The longer you wait, the more damage they can cause.
Possum Damage In Your Home
Are you wondering if you have possums living in your home? If you do, it won’t take long to notice — these animals can do some serious damage to your walls, insulation, floors, and personal belongings.
Here are a few possible ways possums can climb into your home and cause damage:
Dens In Roof Or Attic
Roofs and attics are popular nesting places for possums. As nocturnal creatures, they will spend most of their days asleep and far out of your sight. So if you are someone who never goes into your attic, this could be the perfect place for a possum to build their den.
Nesting is common for pregnant or nursing possums. If you see a possum nest in your attic, there’s likely more than one living in your home.
A possum nest will consist mainly of sticks, grass, insulation, or any other soft materials they can find. You might see droppings or smell urine in or near a possum’s nest as well.
Bear in mind that possum nests look quite similar to the nests of raccoons and squirrels. The best way to tell if the nest in your attic belongs to a possum is by identifying their droppings or looking for other potential signs that a possum is present.
Insulation is soft and great at trapping in warmth. So if you have a possum living in your attic or walls, they may see insulation as the perfect nesting material.
Possums living in your home can do a fair amount of damage to your insulation. Not only is this a nuisance but replacing the insulation can cost a big chunk of money.
If you suspect a possum is living on the premises, you should contact pest control as soon as possible. The sooner you act, the better you can prevent possums from causing any further damage.
Holes In Walls
Possums who live in your home can do a lot of damage to your walls. They have sharp teeth that they can use to gnaw through wood, drywall, and even wires.
If you have a possum infestation and don’t address it quickly, it can lead to some pretty serious damage to your home, which can often be expensive to replace.
If that wasn’t enough, these holes can lead to other pests taking over your home. Bats, mice, raccoons, and rats can easily enter your property through the holes that possums create in your walls.
Urine And Feces
As possums defecate and urinate in the attic or walls of your home, it can lead to some pretty severe damage.
When it comes to possum waste in your home, the first thing people might notice is the smell. Both urine and feces from possums have a very strong scent that can be difficult to eliminate even long after you’ve dealt with your possum infestation.
The unpleasant smell isn’t the only problem that comes with possum waste. Their urine and feces can soak into the floors and walls of your home, leaving behind dark brown stains.
Possum Damage In The Yard
In some cases, a possum living under your porch may not be an issue. Because these animals often keep to themselves, you may not even notice the possum is there.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Depending on how many possums you’re dealing with and what you have in your yard, these marsupials can still be troublemakers even if they never set foot in your house.
Here are a few ways possums can cause damage outside the home:
Digging Up Lawns
A huge part of a possum’s diet is grubs and worms. Unfortunately, when a possum hunts for these treats in your yard, they’ll often dig up your grass in the process. So if you notice unexplained holes or torn-up grass throughout your lawn, a possum might be living under your porch.
However, possums aren’t the only animals who like digging for grubs. Other common pests, such as skunks or groundhogs, can do similar damage to your yard. If you notice dug-up grass in your yard, possums are just one of many potential culprits.
Nesting Under Decks
Underneath a deck is a perfect place for a possum to make its home. It’s out of sight, provides shelter from rain and predators, and allows them easy access to eat grubs and other food sources in your yard.
If you’re suspecting a possum is living on your property, your deck is one of the first places you should look. Their nests will usually consist of hay, grass, insulation, and any other soft material they can find.
Possums In Trash
As opportunistic omnivores, possums will eat just about anything they find — including your trash. They have a strong sense of smell that they can use to detect any leftovers you’ve thrown away.
Do you often find your trash can laying on its side? Or do you find garbage bags with rips in them? Alternatively, do you see claw marks on the sides of your trash cans? There’s a good chance that possums have been getting into your trash. These pests can easily climb into your trash cans or even knock them over.
To keep possums away from your trash, choose a trash can with a tight lid. Metal cans are best, as they’re quite durable and more difficult for a possum to climb or knock over.
What To Do If You Encounter A Possum
If you encounter a possum while taking out the trash one night, you may feel an initial urge to panic. After all, a possum infestation can lead to some serious property damage and health risks.
A single possum in your yard is not a cause for concern — if you haven’t noticed any other signs of an infestation, it may simply be passing through.
While encountering a possum may be startling, you don’t need to be frightened of this animal. As I mentioned before, these animals are quite docile and very rarely attack humans, especially if you don’t provoke them. So if you spot one of these animals in your yard, you should be safe as long as you leave them alone.
It’s also important to teach any kids not to approach any possums they see in the yard. Docile as they may be, these animals can give a sharp bite if a child tries to pick them up or play with them.
What To Do If You See A Sick Or Injured Possum
In most cases, it’s best to not pay any mind to possums in your yard. But if you come across a possum that appears sick or injured, that’s a different situation.
If you encounter a possum that is showing signs of illness, displaying unusual behavior or appears to be suffering in any way, you should contact a wildlife rehabilitation center or animal control.
Once you contact a professional, they can capture the possum and give it any necessary treatment and, in the process, keep this potential pest away from your yard.
How To Scare A Possum Away From Your Home
If you have a possum living on your property, it’s important to get them out before they can cause any damage or pose a risk to your family and pets.
If a possum is living inside your home, it may not be wise to try to scare it away on your own. This can result in the possum simply moving to another part of your home, or worse, lashing out in retaliation. Instead, you should contact pest control — they can help remove the possum safely.
But if a possum is living on your outdoor property, contacting a professional may not be necessary, as there are a few steps you can take on your own.
Possum repellent is the best way to scare possums away from your home. You can buy these repellents at most home improvement stores. Possum repellent has a scent that possums hate, so when you spray it under your deck, the pest will decide to find a new home.
If you find that the repellent isn’t working, you may want to consider using an animal trap instead. This should only be used as a last resort, however, as these can be quite stressful for the possum. In addition, it can be difficult to safely get rid of the possum once you’ve captured it.
What To Do If You Can’t Get Rid Of A Possum
Sometimes, scaring away a possum just doesn’t work. This is especially true if you have several possums living on your property.
If you are still struggling to eliminate your possum problem, it may be best to contact a pest control professional. They can safely remove the possums living on your property. In addition, they can give you advice that’ll prevent possums from returning in the future.
The Difference Between Possums and Opossums
The opossum is a native animal of North America while possums have their roots in Australasia. They are both marsupials but otherwise not closely related. Confusedly, the terms ‘possum’ and ‘opossum’ are used interchangeably in the USA to refer to opossums.
As marsupials, they both give birth to underdeveloped young who live inside the mother’s pouch. Let’s compare the biological difference between possums and opossums.
They have black, grey, and white coloration with pink noses and jet black eyes. The American opossum is from a different genetic linage than the Australasian possums. These hissing scavengers are best known for playing dead when scared.
Possums generally have a more rounded body shape with thick golden-grey fur and brown eyes. The possum appears as a more cute animal in comparison to the rodent-like 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 two chestnut brown eyes
- Opossum: Grey with white and black coloration
- Possum: Golden brown thick fur
Solitary nomadic animals stay in one area for as long as food, and water is sustainable. Opossums are renowned 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.
Safely Co-Existing With Opossums
So, are possums dangerous? For the most part, no – as long as you know how to properly deal with them. As long as you don’t approach or corner a possum, the chances of them attacking you are slim to none.
These animals are surprisingly docile. When they feel threatened, their first instinct is to pretend they are dead, or “play possum.”
On rare occasions when a possum does attack, they have an extremely slim chance of spreading rabies, as this virus has a hard time surviving in a possum’s low-temperature body. However, they often carry other diseases that can spread to humans.
If there is a possum on your property, the biggest risk to your safety comes from their feces and urine. But, while some possums can carry diseases such as salmonella or leptospirosis, it’s easy to keep yourself safe from these viruses as long as you avoid contact with their waste.
Overall, the biggest problem with a possum in your home comes down to property damage and the hazards associated with their waste. These shy critters prefer to mind their own business as long as you do the same!