The first time you see the telltale sign of an opossum infestation in your yard—ransacked garbage, or perhaps the opossum itself—it can be tempting to want to take drastic measures...and fast!
What's the best way to handle these hissing, rat-tailed creatures?
Are they dangerous?
Will they give you rabies?
For the best answers to these questions, read on. We're here to tell you exactly how to take care of an opossum in your backyard, and whether or not there's a cause for concern.
Best Course of Action? Leave Them Alone.
That's correct, your eyes don't deceive you; the best way to handle an opossum in your backyard or garden is to let nature run its course.
Why shouldn't you interfere?
For starters, these animals aren't rabid and they're probably more scared of you than you are of them. Also, there are a few different answers as to why you should let them stay put.
Keep reading below for detailed explanations as to why an opossum is best left to Mother Nature to sort out.
They Are Nature's Exterminators
It's no secret that opossums will eat anything and everything they can find, including all the unsightly bugs and spiders in your garden.
Got mice, rats, snakes, slugs, or frogs creeping around? These are no problem for opossums, even the serpents.
Believe it or not, opossums are immune to snake venom due to a special protein present in their blood.
By having an opossum on your property, you've actually got a beneficial animal chowing down on your most annoying (and in some cases, most damaging) pests...totally free of charge!
No Weed Whacker Necessary
In addition to bugs and slugs, opossums are known to supplement their diet with any plants they can find.
Before you get worried that they'll attack your garden flowers or crops, rest assured that these animals are much more attracted to the taste of wilting weeds than healthy planet matter.
Generally, they act as weed-eaters around the perimeter of a property and take out all the unsightly grasses growing in places that landscapers would normally trim themselves.
They're a Free Cleaning Crew
One of the most unpleasant parts of owning a home is having to remove a dead animal that's made its way onto your property to die. Wouldn't it be lovely if there were a way to take care of this task without touching a dead animal (or paying a cent for someone else to do it for you)?
This is where the opossum comes in handy yet again.
These animals love to feast on carcasses on dead animals (sometimes called carrion) and will readily clean up any decaying animal that happens to die in your yard.
Preventing Further Opossum Infestation In Your Yard
If you're convinced that opossums are creepy and you don't want them hanging out in your vicinity, we understand.
If you've got opossums in your backyard, you can take some of the following steps to make your property a less hospitable place for them. This, in turn, will make them back up and move along to another place to call home.
Modify the Habitat To Help With Prevention
By changing the way you store your garbage and pet food, you're making it more difficult for the opossum to gain access to a major food source. Without this food, your property won't seem like such an attractive place to den anymore.
- Separate food scraps and dispose of them in sealable, airtight containers such as plastic food containers you'd normally throw away
- Store all pet food and bird seed in durable containers which can't be penetrated by the opossum's sharp teeth
- Keep trash in garbage cans which have locking lids, or heavy lids which can't be lifted by a small opossum
Prevent Opossums From Forming A Den Around Your Backyard
Because opossums are mainly sedentary when they're not out scrounging for food, they make it a priority to find a safe plan to create den. You can prevent them for denning in and around your property by methods of exclusion, as outlined below.
- Seal up cracks and crevices around the property that opossums could manipulate into a larger hole
- Fix any loose boards which lead into direct entrances to your home's spaces
- Make sure all vents are properly capped with no access to the outside
- Caulk any loose areas which could lead to a hole in the future
- Install poultry wire around a garden to keep opossums from entering
Trap Based Removal Methods For Yards
If you'd rather go for a quicker fix, there's always the option to trap an opossum at home to control the problem at the source.
Traps are normally considered humane methods of dealing with a nuisance animal, because they generally only confine the animal until it can be released in the wild. While this is true of opossum traps, a permit is required in many states to relocate an opossum that was trapped on personal property back into the wild.
This means that unless you're willing to apply for a permit with your state government, you'll need to kill the opossum at home after trapping it. Some states allow home firearm usage in order to eliminate these animals.
The Final Takeaway About Yard Opossum Removal
Yes, opossums hiss and growl. Yes, they shake their rat tails and climb your trees while they stare at you with their creepy, black eyes.
But really, they're not so bad to have around. In fact, they are incredibly beneficial animals in terms of pest control and backyard cleanliness, if you can believe it; they'll eat up anything unpleasant and keep your yard looking manicured!
Removing them takes time and, if you choose to do it quickly, you'll have to resort to violent measures. We recommend to just let them eat your pests in the yard—due to their nomadic lifestyle, the opossum will most likely pack up and move out in its own in a matter of time.
Other Opossum Guides
Curious about other opossum related products? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your pest problems.