How To Get Rid of Opossums (2021 Edition)

Virginia opossums are the only type of opossum you will find in North America. They become a nuisance for homeowners by making a mess of yards and gardens. So, what is the preferred method for keeping these destructive pests away? 

In this handy guide, our wildlife control experts show you:

  • The Opossum Removal Techniques Used by the Pros
  • How To Keep Opossums Out of Your Yard for Good
  • How To Identify Opossums
  • The Signs and Causes of Infestations

If trying to get rid of opossums on your own becomes too challenging, we recommend Orkin, Terminix, and Aptive. These exterminators have some of the best-trained professionals that can use traps, baits, and other chemically treated solutions that are often more effective than standard DIY methods. 

For Terminix quotes, you can reach them at 866-577-5051 or with this form.

For quotes from Orkin, call 866-701-4556, or fill out this form.

For a free quote from Aptive, call 855-521-7075 or visit the company's website.

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How To Get Rid of Opossums 

Opossum control starts with identifying the problem. Once you do that, it becomes a simple process. Here, we provide the steps necessary to eliminate these pesky critters from your yard. 

Trapping Opossums

Unlike skunks and raccoons, opossums are relatively easy to trap. Still, you should consult with your state's wildlife department concerning local regulations before starting. 

When choosing a live trap, make sure it is at least 10 inches wide and 32 inches deep. This will ensure there is plenty of room to accommodate the animal. 

You can bait the trap with almost anything. However, what seems to work the best in most cases is fish-flavored cat food

Scaring Devices

Ultrasonic pest repellers use ultrasound to deter opossums and other wildlife animals. Their effectiveness increases when they come with flashing lights and audible alarms. Also, it’s preferable to have several scattered throughout your yard for maximum coverage. 

An often overlooked wildlife deterrent is motion-activated sprinkler systems. When a nuisance animal enters the yard, it gets sprayed with water, causing it to leave. 

Chemical Repellents

Opossum repellents come in a wide range of chemical formulas, including sprays and granules. While they’re widely available, their effectiveness may wear off after only a short period. For that reason, it’s necessary to reapply frequently. 

There are a few things to avoid. For example, mothballs do not work as wildlife deterrents. Besides, they’re not labeled for that purpose, and it’s illegal to use them in that manner. 

Also, there is no scientific evidence that spreading coffee grounds or cinnamon all over your yard does anything but make a mess. Therefore, it’s best to stick with what works.

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How to Keep Opossums Away 

Keeping opossums out of your yard takes an integrative approach. Here, you’ll discover the preventive control methods used by professional wildlife managers. 

Reduce Food Availability

Opossums are omnivores, which means they’ll eat anything. With that in mind, it’s helpful to keep all food sources away from them. 

Start by securing garbage cans. Make sure they have tight-fitting lids. Also, you can tie them to sturdy vertical objects such as trees or poles so they won't blow over during windy seasons. Bungee cords work well for this. 

Next, remove pet food bowls and relocate them indoors. If this proves to be impractical, at least bring them inside every night before dusk. 

Last, be sure to keep your yard clear of any fallen fruits or vegetables that may attract wildlife. Also, check periodically for any dead birds or animals to deter opossums that may eat them. 

Make Your Yard Unattractive to Animals

Keep your lawn mowed and the weeds trimmed. Also, remove brush piles. These measures will help reduce cover for opossums and other wildlife pests. 

Be sure to stack firewood tightly to avoid nesting underneath, and keep lumber at least 18 inches off the ground. 

Finally, cut back shrubs and trees at least five feet from your house. This one step limits the opossum's access to your roof and attic spaces. 

Make Use of Mechanical Exclusion

Opossums can create hiding places in several locations around your home, including:

  • Porches
  • Steps
  • Tool sheds
  • Garages
  • Attics
  • Crawl spaces

You can limit their access to these areas by closing holes and entry points. The best way to do that is by screening openings with hardware cloth. Be sure to bury the edges at least six inches so animals cannot dig under them. 

You can also keep opossums out of your garden with chicken coop wire. It’s best to create a four-foot-high fence with the top 18 inches bent outward. This flexible structure is difficult to climb and will help deter unwanted wildlife. 

Repel Opossums Naturally

Natural wildlife repellents come in either spray or granular form. Their active ingredient is typically a mixture of essential oils. For example:

  • Peppermint
  • Lemongrass
  • Eucalyptus
  • Cedar
  • Lavender

Sprinkle some granules near a known nesting site. In addition, you can spray liquid repellents around the perimeter of your home to deter opossums from trying to enter. 

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How To Identify Opossums

The key to nuisance wildlife control is knowing what type of animal is invading your yard. In this section, we show you how to identify opossums accurately. 

Identification

Opossums are small animals about the size of a house cat. They’re the only marsupials in North America, meaning they carry their young in a pouch, similar to kangaroos.

Opossums are two to three feet long with gray fur and a white, pointed face. Their feet look more like small hands, which they use for hanging onto tree branches. They’re exceptional climbers and can hang upside down by their tails. 

Life Cycle

The mating season for the opossum is typically in early spring and may run into the early summer months. The gestation period for pregnant females is approximately 13 days. 

Each litter yields between five and seven young, which are altricial, meaning they’re born hairless and helpless. Even so, they somehow manage to find their way into the mother's pouch. There, they nurse for up to 14 weeks. 

Some more developed young will ride on the mother's back if the pouch becomes too full. Opossums live up to about three years as adults. 

Behavior

Opossums, when threatened by predators, will often feign death. Contrary to popular belief, this behavior is involuntary. After a few minutes, the opossum will recover and then try to escape. 

However, juvenile opossums don’t have this ability. Instead, they stop, show their teeth, and growl at the enemy. Unfortunately, this technique seldom works, and the youngster is often killed anyway. 

Do Opossums Carry Diseases?

Opossums transmit ectoparasites to other animals and humans. These include:

  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Mites
  • Lice

Murine typhus is sometimes transmitted to humans by fleas that opossums have infected. It’s a bacterial infection that is rare and only found in subtropical climates in the U.S. 

Symptoms of murine typhus include:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Body aches
  • Rash

In severe cases, it can affect various bodily functions. However, death rarely occurs since there are antibiotics available to treat the condition. 

Opossums are responsible for another disease called leptospirosis. It’s transmitted to humans through contact with water contaminated by animal feces and urine. 

Common symptoms of leptospirosis are:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Red Eyes
  • Rash

If left untreated, the disease can cause meningitis or kidney failure. Still, only a few deaths have been reported in the US. 

Pets, including dogs and cats, can pick up flea infestations from opossums. For that reason, it’s best to keep wild animals, whether dead or alive, out of your yard. 

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Signs and Causes of an Opossum Infestation 

Opossums are scavengers that will eat anything, including:

  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Frogs
  • Rodents
  • Carrion (roadkill)

Pet food and birdseed appear to attract opossums the most to backyard areas. Vegetable gardens, fruit trees, and open trash cans represent additional favored spots for them to hang around. 

Opossums will nest anywhere there is a plentiful source of food and water. Since they’re not typically afraid of humans, they may even try to come through your pet door to see what there is to eat. 

The easiest way to tell if you have an infestation is by observing the nesting site. These are the most common areas opossums may use as their dens:

  • Brush piles
  • Wood piles
  • Under decks and porches
  • Under stairs
  • Crawl spaces

They often pull together whatever materials are available to fashion a haphazard home. These include:

  • Sticks
  • Leaves
  • Pillow stuffing
  • Torn pieces of cloth

A family of opossums may stay for a week or a month. It simply depends on how suitable your home is for their survival. 

One Last Point

Even though opossums are cute and cuddly, they’re still wild animals. So, it’s not ideal to have them around your home since they’re disease spreaders. Also, they tend to pass fleas and ticks to your pets. 

Hopefully, we have provided enough information here so you can go the DIY route, but if you decide to hire a pro, that is fine, too. We understand it can be a daunting task to remove wildlife from your property permanently. 

When deciding on an exterminator or pest control service, be sure to do your homework. The best way to start is by asking who your neighbors use. Or you can go here to find out what's available in your area.

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