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How to Keep Possums Away

Commonly known as a possum, the opossum, is a marsupial found throughout the Western hemisphere. While there are a few myths and misconceptions, generally people think of possums as a nocturnal pest and the phrase “playing possum.”

In New England and the U.S., the Virginia opossum is the possum that we see in our community, or hear at night rustling through the garbage. Generally, possums are about 2-3 feet (while they can grow to be the size of a large cat) and males are slightly larger than females. With distinct, elongated snouts and narrow skulls with pink noses and black eyes, possums are omnivores that play a key role in our local ecosystems. Opossums are natural pest predators, which is the underlying reason that drives some of the misconceptions about them.

  • Opossums do not carry rabies because their low body temperature makes them unlikely and unsuitable hosts.
  • Opossums are not dirty, but spend a lot of time self-grooming themselves, like cats.
  • Opossums do not damage structures because they are nomadic and generally look to take shelter in existing dry spaces.
  • Opossums do not solely eat trash, whereas omnivores, eat fruit, insects, small animals, and even venomous snakes, along with trash, if food is available.
  • Opossums are not aggressive, but rather shy and seek to avoid human contact, hence the term “playing possum.”

How to Keep Away Possums

While opossums do not seek to damage structs, these animals are resilient and relentless eaters (while the food source is plentiful). As a nomadic creature, opossums will continue to feed in the same spots as long as the food is available. So, while opossums may not seek to harm your property, they will destroy plants and gardens while looking for food, which means if you suspect a possum is in your area, it makes sense to learn how to keep them away.

For homeowners with a garden, then adding a chicken coop around the fruits and vegetables is likely the first step (which will also help with other wildlife nuisances). In addition to a strong coop with no gaps or holes, install sturdy locks and other hardware to reinforce the coop, the following tips will help keep possums away.

  • Use strong scents that opossums dislike, such as Cayenne pepper (mixed with water and sprayed liberally around problem areas), garlic, ammonia, and mothballs.
  • Use a natural spray made from soaking Quassia bark chips in water, which opossums find unpalatable.
  • Apply natural repellents like predator urine (e.g. red fox urine) around the yard to deter opossums.
  • Use motion-activated lights around the coop to scare opossums away.
  • Remove any food sources that attract opossums, such as leftover chicken feed, pet food, or fallen fruit.
  • Use strong scents that opossums dislike, such as ammonia, mothballs, garlic, or peppermint and use throughout the yard or around your garden/coop.
  • Eliminate potential opossum shelters by cleaning up brush piles, and firewood, and sealing off access under porches or sheds.
  • Seal any entry points to your home or chicken coop with hardware cloth or other sturdy materials to prevent opossums from entering the shelter.
  • If problems persist, consider using humane traps to remove them from your property and relocate them elsewhere.

Ultimately, the key to keeping away opossums is taking a proactive approach to making your property unattractive and inaccessible to them. With some diligence and a lot of persistence, homeowners can take a combination of opossum deterrent methods to keep them away from their yards.

Common Mistakes When Trying to Keep Possums Away

Opossums are very diligent and persistent creatures, which means that while the steps to keep them out of your yard are straightforward, they may not be easy. After all, as one of nature’s most adaptable creatures, opossums are quick to learn and likely have more patience than you (as long as the food or shelter remains). To help avoid some common mistakes of keeping possums away, the following offers a reminder that multiple steps are likely required.

  • Do not solely rely on simple deterrents like lights or scents – While motion-activated lights, strong scents, and other deterrents can help, they are not foolproof and a multi-pronged approach is needed.
  • Be vigilant in removing food sources that attract opossums – Failing to remove feed, pet food, fallen fruit, and other food scraps can draw opossums to the property. Properly storing food, especially for pets, is crucial.
  • Not eliminating potential possum shelters – Leaving brush piles, woodpiles, and access under porches/sheds gives opossums places to nest and hide. Cleaning up these areas is important.
  • Attempting to trap and relocate opossums yourself – Attempting to trap opossums yourself can be dangerous and is often ineffective due to opossums’ natural defense mechanism of playing dead. Trapping should be left to professional wildlife removal services.

The key to protecting your property from opossums is taking a comprehensive, proactive approach and remaining persistent in multiple deterrence methods. Additionally, it is important not to be too proactive because opossums play an important part in the local ecosystem (and harming them may be illegal in certain areas).

Possums Help Control Pest Populations

Interestingly, opossums are one of nature’s best pest control specialists. As such, while it is understandable, that you don’t want opossums in your yard, these creatures are largely harmless and may help protect your family from other diseases and more dangerous wildlife. For example, as omnivores and scavengers, opossums eat a variety of more severe pests.

  • Opossums can eat up to 4,000 ticks per week, helping to reduce the spread of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
  • Opossums prey on mice, rats, and other small rodents, which helps control populations of common household pests.
  • Opossums consume cockroaches, insects, snails, slugs, and other garden pests.
  • Opossums eat venomous snakes because they are resistant to snake venom, allowing them to prey on and help control populations of venomous snakes.
  • As scavengers, opossums clean up carrion and other decaying matter (i.e., consuming dead animals, possums help remove potential disease vectors and pests from the environment).

Although opossums are considered a nuisance, it is clear that these creatures provide valuable natural pest control services that benefit the ecosystem (and help protect your family and make it safer to spend time outside in your yard). To help keep opossums safe, but not around your land, then natural remedies, such as strong scents and removing sources of food and shelter are some of the best ways to protect opossums, but still keep them away from your garden or yard.

For long-term removal, it’s best to contact professional wildlife control services to provide a sustainable solution that prevents opossums from returning.

What are the Signs of a Possible Possum Problem

Opossums are nocturnal creatures with a flexible diet, making them difficult to catch in action and even more difficult to get rid of for good. They love to hide in dark areas below or above ground. These adaptable little creatures can just as easily take over an abandoned burrow as climb a tree. Unless you catch one rummaging through the garbage, your best bet for locating where an opossum has been is to follow the tracks (look for paw prints with a distinctive thumb-like toe on the hind foot) and droppings (which resemble cat feces but have pointed ends).

If you live in our service area and suspect opossums are in your yard and damaging your plants, garden or other things, then Eliminate ‘Em offers fast, professional, courteous service with licensed technicians to handle all your pest control needs. We offer same-day services and free estimates to eliminate opossums, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.