Opossum FAQ’s: Info about Nuisance Opossums

Many people use the phrase “playing possum”, which is in reference to the weirdly-cute looking small marsupials native to North America who pretend to be dead as a defense mechanism. They're known scavengers and can often be spotted near dead animal carcass’. Opossums are actually omnivores, so while they prefer meats they will eat many different types of fruits and grains as well. Opossums are opportunistic eaters, and often feast on food they find rather than hunt. Although they could hunt smaller animals, they are easily frightened and have many natural predators. Opossums don't normally build their nests, they simply take over abandoned nests from different animals who have abandoned the nest. They typically reside in a wooded area, where they would have access to plenty of water and food sources.

Despite typically living in the woods, opossums have also adapted to the ever-growing world around them. They are able to flourish in urban areas in addition to their ordinary wooded homelands. Your garbage is the perfect lure for opossums because we throw away many different types of meats and other foods they're attracted to. You may have observed an opossum draw back his mouth and reveal the sharp teeth they have, although this can be a defense strategy, opossums are not aggressive and this maneuver is more to frighten you than anything else.

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Although it's usually believed that opossums could hang upside down from branches using their tails, this is not a universal true fact for all opossums. Opossums can normally become about the size of a domestic cat, and their tails would simply not be able to support that kind of weight. The idea behind their capability to hang from their tail comes from the fact that the tail of an opossum can wrap round items. They also have opposable thumbs on the rear legs that allow them to climb easily. While opossums have adapted to most aspects of our modern day society, they are still most often killed by cars when trying to cross a road.

Opossum Evidence: Signs of Opossums in the Attic or Around Your Property

Opossums activity is often similar to other wildlife activity, which can occasionally make it difficult to determine that you are indeed dealing with an opossum. Oftentimes, it is possible to find garbage cans or composts seeming like they've been bothered, which can be a good indicator that an opossum was foraging through them for food. If you happen to have chicken coops, opossums are well known for breaking into chicken coops to steal eggs or to kill chicks. Opossum tracks are very distinctive, they are easily the best way to identify opossum activity. Their front paw will have five toes with distinctive claw marks, the rear paw will have four toes on the front along with the opposable toe on the very back.

Opossums may also make their way into your attic on occasion. Often, it is a mother opossum seeking out a safe place to home her newborn babies. Opossums are nocturnal creatures, meaning that they are active at night, so any sounds you may hear from an opossum will more than likely can occur during the evening times. Opossums are slow animals, so you can expect to hear slow dragging and scratching noises from them if they are inside your attic. You may notice that your insulation is torn or disturbed, this can occur when opossums are attempting to create burrows in the insulation. They burrow into the insulation to hide their babies in a safe and warm environment. You may experience increased opossum activity during the winter months when they are seeking shelter from the cold, or during early summer months when they are having their babies. Opossums are slow and awkward animals, they are infamous for falling behind walls from the attic space and becoming stuck; eventually they pass away and leave a terrible odor behind.

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Opossums in the Attic: Areas Opossums Use to Access Your Home

Opossums will often gain entry through holes which are already created, these are commonly in roof returns or the soffit. They are typically too big to fit into smaller accesses that other animals can squeeze through, such as pipes. Because of their opposable thumb on the rear of the back foot, they are able to climb many walls and structures easily, which allows them access to potential entry points. While not common, they sometimes are known to acquire access through vents as well.

Opossums will use a low hanging branch to easily gain access onto your roof. They can easily climb onto the limb, and lower themselves onto the roof without actually having to work for it – opossums are all about convenience. Since opossums cannot jump, low hanging branches provide the perfect access bridge for them. Don’t be mistaken though, if an opossum has made up it’s mind that it wants in your attic, he’ll find a way.

When roofs are installed, it is common for them to leave the roof returns slightly open. These are perfect access points for opossums who can wiggle into the holes left behind that are an immediate access into your attic. Since these holes are hidden in corners and dark, they often go unnoticed. You may be able to spot feces, hair, or rub marks on the main access point that the opossum is using for entry.

Opossums are known for hiding under decks or mobile homes, which are often sealed with lattice when new but will come loose with age. Opossums will use these loose areas in the lattice to gain entry to beneath the deck, or residence, where they have the dark, safe environment to live in free from predators.

Opossum Diseases: Health Risks Arising from Opossums in Your Attic

Opossums are known to carry many different diseases; however, they are not commonly known for carrying the rabies virus. This is more than likely due in part to their exceedingly low body temperature. So, while you can breathe a sigh of relief that you more than likely aren’t at risk for rabies, there are other hazards that can arise from an opossum in your home.

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One of the most common diseases that opossums are known to carry is leptospirosis. This disease is transmitted via their urine or stool, and can cause kidney damage in humans. They are also well-known carriers of salmonella. While both these ailments can be treated at a hospital with no major lingering effects, you should always use caution when coming into contact with opossums. Opossums have been linked to tuberculosis along with toxoplasmosis. Which can not only be transferred to humans but any household pets as well.

Opossums are wild animals and are not necessarily the most clean, so they are likely to bring bugs such as fleas and ticks into your house. A common misconception is that a flea infestation cannot thrive in the house without pets to host them, however fleas can infest your home pet or no pet.

Since opossums are marsupials, they will not often chew on electrical wires or beams in your attic, however they will tear your insulation material. The damage done by opossums is significantly less than that of other wildlife animals or rodents that can gain entry to your attic, however they are still unwanted guests

Opossum Poop: Opossum Feces Identification Guide

While the physical damage that opossums cause is not major, they do leave a lot behind; a lot more poop that is. While many species of wildlife will use the latrine system, where many droppings are in a designated area, opossums will leave their droppings wherever they like, any time they like. While this makes differentiating their feces from other animals easier, it will not help in the clean-up of the area.

Opossum feces can often be described as being quite big with tapered ends as opposed to curved, this commonly resembles droppings from that of a little dog. The droppings are often brown in color, but they're also known to sometimes have a white-ish or even yellow-ish color of mold growth in or on the feces. The droppings come out curly, and are very rarely straight.

While raccoons and opossums have very similar droppings, the best way to distinguish the two is the location of the feces. Raccoons are utilizers of the latrine system, so if the droppings are scattered all over the place, it is more likely an opossum rather than a raccoon.

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As disgusting as it may be, to properly identify droppings you will end up having to get closer than you’d probably like. So if you are preparing to go into the attic with all the feces, you should protect yourself with gloves and a face mask.

How to Get Rid of Opossums: Trapping, Exclusion, Sanitation

Once you have officially established that you have an opossum in your attic, what’s the next step? It is time to start setting traps, and eliminating your opossum issue for good. You want to identify precisely what sort of problem you are looking at, rather you have one opossum or a family. If you are dealing with a family that has babies, you will want to be more cautious as they are completely defenseless and you don’t want to run the risk of them passing away in your attic. Your best bet in this situation is to trap for the mother, and once you have successfully trapped her, you can hand remove the babies and release them all together.

After all opossums are out of the home, you need to seal any and all potential entry points. No matter what type of animal you are dealing with, they will leave a scent trail as they go, which can allow other animals to follow them, and if your attic hasn’t been properly sealed this can mean that they will follow the scent straight into your home again. The sealing up of your home is called the exclusion and is able to be started while the opossums are still in your attic. Just keep their main entrance open so that you don’t trap them inside, which can often result in them passing away in your attic. You will need to go over your house several times to ensure that you have sealed all potential access points. Even if they're super tiny holes, you should seal them as other smaller creatures can obtain access through them. After you have successfully removed all opossums, you can then seal the main entry point up.

Once the opossums are gone and your home is sealed, you only have one more step before you are finally able to relax. The cleaning is the messiest part of the entire situation, so you’ll want to invest in gloves and a mask to protect yourself during it. Gather any and all droppings you find, which will be scattered everywhere, and dispose of them immediately. You can then go over the entire area with a disinfectant to further break down any bacteria that could be left behind.

Opossum Trapping 101: How to Trap an Opossum

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Trapping an opossum can become a tricky endeavor, they are cautious by nature which can make trapping them difficult. You will want to purchase a large steel cage trap, which are humane traps. You can trap them and relocate them easily, and without harming them. There are several products that will claim to poison or deter opossums, however these are not proven to be very effective. Even if you successfully poison an opossum, it can pass away in your attic, leaving behind a terrible odor for you to deal with. With live trapping, you are able to see the animal in the trap and remove it easily.

Be sure that you check your trap every day, if not twice a day. You will want to remove the animal as soon as possible after it is caught, this can prevent the animal from passing away from dehydration if they are trapped for extended periods of time. Not only is letting them die this way extremely inhumane, the odor as they decompose can bring other curious animals into your yard. This can make your wildlife issue worse that when you just had the opossums.

When trying to locate the perfect place to set your trap, you want to try for an area where you have noticed opossum activity. For example, say you have a garden and you happen to notice that each and every morning your prized berries are sprinkled everywhere, you most likely will want to set a trap close to that plant because the opossum is likely to go near that area. You can also try to locate what path the opossum is taking as they head out to scavenge for food, and you can place your traps along this path.

Opossum Food Sources: What Bait to Use for Opossums

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A common question when people are attempting to trap an opossum is what sort of bait they should be using. Opossums go through your garbage, so you know that they will eat anything! So what sort of bait can be best used to trap them? In theory, you could throw anything into the trap and they would likely eat it, there are some baits that may work better on opossums. Since opossums favor meat, you will likely be more lucky when using a meat-based bait.

Canned cat food is one of the most effective and commonly used baits, the odor will tempt any opossum into the region and while they're intoxicated by the smell of the chicken or seafood they will wander right into the trap cage. This bait does come with a setback, however; you might wind up grabbing your neighbor's kitty. This is why it is important to check your traps often, you do not need the crazy cat woman next door to catch you with her baby in a trap, because then you are on her bad side, and nobody enjoys being on mad cat woman's bad side.

You can also use scarps from fish or apples to lure an opossum, however these baits may attract other animals. Trapping the opossum may end up taking longer than you originally planned on, so you shouldn’t be discouraged when you don’t have results within your first week. You may want to change your bait when you don’t catch an opossum immediately, but you want to try and wait at least a couple days before changing baits. Any continuous abrupt changes can deter them from moving near the trap, this includes changing baits or moving the trap. If after about a week you haven’t caught anything, you can try to change baits or change the location of the trap.