The possum or opossum is a mammal in the marsupial family. The possum is smaller than the kangaroo, and unlike its relative, it has next to no defensive abilities. The opossum secretes a disgusting smell when threatened and it may play possum by pretending to be dead.
If you’ve seen possums on the roads or in trees near your home, you’re probably worried about the possibility of a possum infestation. You may be wondering, can possums climb fences or trees to gain access to my property? What steps do I need to take if possums infest my home?
- Possum vs Opossum
- Can Possums climb
- Possum around your home and yard
- How to get rid of possums or opossums
- Can Possums Climb Should you be worried?
Possum vs Opossum
Before we start it’s worth clearing up the difference between the term Possum and Opossum. There are two kinds of marsupials that bear the name possum. The opossum lives in the United States and most of North America, and its fur is white and gray. The possum lives in Australia, New Zealand, and China. If you’ve seen a possum in your home, you likely saw an opossum!
However, in North America, the term Possum and Opossum and used interchangeably to refer to the native North American Opossum.
The Australasian opossum can grow to the size of a large cat, about 40 inches long, and it has a long tail similar to a rat. The opossum is native to the West Coast, Eastern, and Central regions of the United States.
Both of these mammals exhibit similar behavioral tendencies so all of the advice below is applicable to both.
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Can Possums climb
Possums and opossums can climb trees, fences, concrete walls, roofs, and different types of siding. These marsupials have claws with opposable rear thumbs that make climbing smooth surfaces easier for possums than other animals. A long tail also helps with balance with climbing.
Possums and opossums are nocturnal animals, so it can be tough to catch them climbing in and out of your garage or other structure if they’re traveling at night. Their claws are tough and can destroy structures or fences when opossums dig through them.
Can Possums climb trees?
Both opossums and possums are skilled tree climbers. Opossums can move quickly when threatened and they will use their speed and climbing ability to escape up trees when running from dogs or other predators.
Possums are scavengers, similar to the raccoon, and will eat small birds they get the chance and insects living in trees. If you have fruit trees on your property, opossums and possums can and will climb trees to scavenge for fruit if they have the opportunity.
Can Possums climb over fences?
Both possums and opossums can climb fences thanks to their long thick claws and the opposable thumbs on their front feet. They also have strong feet and can dig into wooden fences with their impressive claws, sometimes damaging the wood.
The possum’s tail is prehensile, like the tail of South and Central American monkeys. This not only gives the possum perfect balance, but it acts as a fifth limb and the animals use them for climbing and holding. The possum’s tail can help them climb almost anything, even chain-link fences.
Can Possums climb walls?
Possums and opossums can climb almost any type of wall. Their claws and tail are strong enough to help lift and attach them to brick, concrete, wood paneling, stone, and tiles. In fact, possums and opossums can climb almost anything other than glass and some types of metal.
If you’re worried about opossums climbing the walls of your house, barn, or other outdoor structure, I recommend checking that all sources of food or garbage that could attract possums are put away and out of reach.
Can Possums climb onto your roof?
Though it may seem extreme, possums and opossums can easily make their way onto roofs, especially if you live in an area with a lot of trees or with cold weather. Once on the roof, the animal may damage your roofing, or dig out a shelter near chimneys or in broken vents.
The number one prevention technique for keeping possums and opossums off the roof is to cut or trim all branches and foliage that are hanging near or over your roof. Possums are expert climbers and jumpers.
Possum around your home and yard
Possums often try to dig out shelters and dens in residential yards or near people’s homes. If you have pets, possums and opossums are not offensive but can hiss, bite and scratch if threatened or attacked by other animals. They may even be a predator towards smaller pets.
Possums will favor any homes or yards that have food, trash, or suitable places for them to shelter. This includes outdoor pet food, full outside trash bins, and stacks of wood or hay they can dig into for a den.
Will Possums Damage Your Property
Possums and opossums absolutely have the potential to damage your property. If they have the opportunity, they will dig through your yard, destroy small buildings like chicken coops or rabbit hutches, and even rip through fencing, insulation, and plastic to access trash or food.
While I’ve mentioned that neither marsupial is naturally offensive nor aggressive, the opossum and opossum will eat small livestock like chickens or rabbits. They can even hurt your pets if they feel threatened over outdoor food sources like pet bowls or fallen fruit.
Possums and opossums sleep in dens, especially in regions where temperatures are low several months out of the year or during the winter months in warmer climates. Their dens are normally made out of natural formations like burrows, hollowed logs, and brush piles.
On your property, opossums will den in any sheltered space, including inside vents, in between insulation, in garages and woodpiles, and even in cars or tractors if they’ve sat untouched for long enough. With their claws, opossums can produce real damage while creating dens.
Scavenging in Trash
Like other nocturnal scavengers, possums and opossums will eat almost any kind of trash. If you have a lot of food waste in your garbage bins or dumpster, a possum will be drawn to the smell and may try to dig into or scavenge in your trash.
The opossum will spread trash and dirt all over while scavenging in the trash, and they may also track trash back to wherever on your property they’ve denned. The mess left behind from a possum can attract other pests like raccoons.
One of the possum’s best scavenging tools is its long sharp claws, which are perfect for digging. Opossums will dig in lawns for grubs and other insects, and can be predators to ducks, or geese that make their home on the grass.
To prevent lawn damage, keep it free of anything that could attract an opossum like fallen fruit, rotting garden fruit, vegetable, or compost. You can also treat your lawn for grubs and other bugs to prevent it from becoming a possum feeding ground.
Do Possums carry disease?
Like other scavenging animals and nuisance wildlife, possums and opossums are prime carriers for all types of diseases. Due to their penchant for trash, digging, and nestling in dirt, trees, and other natural areas possums can be dangerous transmitters of viruses and bloodsucking insects.
To avoid catching a disease from a possum or opossum, be vigilant about removing or repairing any accessible areas in your home that possums could enter through. If you encounter an opossum in your home, leave the area immediately and call wildlife or a pest professional to help remove it.
Rabies and Lyme disease
Surprisingly, possums are not common carriers of the rabies virus. Unlike other nocturnal scavengers like foxes and raccoons, the possum rarely contracts rabies and even more rarely transmits it. The body temperature of the possum is too low to host the virus.
Possums also rarely contract Lyme disease from tick bites. This is because possums and opossums eat up to 96% of the ticks and other insects that attach themselves to the animal. After a tick has bitten a possum, it’s less likely to transmit Lyme disease to another animal or human.
Speaking of fleas and ticks, while the possum may eat 96% of them, they are still rampant carriers of the blood-sucking insects. While you’re less likely to get Lyme disease from a tick that’s bitten an opossum, you or your pet can end up with fleas after touching one.
It’s crucial if you have possums in your area to be proactive about flea prevention for your pets. Check your pets frequently for fleas, and if your pet has a physical interaction with a possum take them to the vet.
How to get rid of possums or opossums
The safest way to get rid of possums or opossums is to avoid the area where the animals are nesting. But if you have possums on your property, call your local nuisance wildlife specialist or pest control professional. Possums can be dangerous when threatened.
A professional will use traps or specialized fencing to remove the possum from its den or prevent it from returning to your property. While it may be tempting to try and flush the possum out yourself, don’t risk driving the animal deeper into hiding on your property or in your home.
Can Possums Climb Should you be worried?
If you live in an area where possums or opossums are spotted frequently, it can be hard not to worry about them climbing into your garage or onto your roof. If you take the necessary precautions and remove any trash or compost from your property, you should be just fine.
If a possum does den on your property or starts digging up holes in your lawn, look to your local pest control professional. Most possum removals are relatively simple, and a professional can recommend damage control and prevention techniques.