I don’t know if evolution got angry at the opossum and that’s why it looks the way it does or if the Big E simply forgot about the ugly little nit all together. I mean seriously, what a bummer of a way to look for a critter as cool as the opossum. “Cool” did I say? Hell yeah. Cool. Opossums (Didelphis virginiana) are the only marsupial found in North America. Like other marsupials, i.e. koalas, kangaroos and wombats, the female opossum has a pouch in which the young of the species scramble into as soon as they’re born. Once inside the pouch, baby opossums latch onto 1 of the 13 nipples found there. And yes, I said 13 nipples. Opossums are also the proud owners of prehensile tails and opposable thumbs. Coolest of all: their body temperature. Because of their low body temp, opossums almost never carry rabies. This same feature is also responsible for their high resistance to the venom from rattlesnakes and copperheads.
So what’s the problem? Why do people want to get rid of opossums? Usually it’s simply because they are so darn ugly. People get creeped out and don’t want the little buggers around. And I say…fair enough. For many others though, it’s because they’re getting into things they shouldn’t like the garbage, birdfeeders, dog and cat food, the hen house, the duck pen, and sometimes they even decide to take up residence in the garage, attic or under the shed. And opossums just don’t smell nice enough to have as houseguests. So…round up the kids and let’s get rid of possums.
Opossum Control through Avoidance
Eliminate the food source
If you’ve got opossums in your yard, chances are you did something to lure them there. Possums will eat almost anything. Insects, carrion, rodents, amphibians, baby birds, plants, fruits, vegetables, garbage, birdseed, dog and cat food and even compost are all fare game. Clean it up. Get garbage cans with tight fitting lids, don’t leave food out for the neighborhood strays, if you have fruit trees pick up any of the fallen fruit, protect your compost and bring birdfeeders in at night.
It only seems natural that something as ugly as an opossum would want somewhere to hide his face right? Right. Start by disposing of any brush piles. Once those are gone, get rid of woodpiles or put them in a tight shelter like a woodshed. Just remember to keep the door to the woodshed, and the garage, and the boathouse, and any other structure you might have shut. All we’re doing here is pulling in the welcome mat.
Eliminate the opossum
And I don’t mean kill it, these things are really pretty harmless. Just get yourself one of those nice Havahart or OxGord opossum traps (you can find OxGord animal traps at Amazon). Load it up with something smelly like canned cat food or canned dog food. Pretty much any type of old fruit or vegetable will also do the trick. When you catch him in your opossum trap, drive him off as far as you have time to go (I would say a good 20 miles at least) open the cage with a stick, step back and let him walk out of your life forever.
Strategically place ammonia and mothballs
Found out where the little uggos are hiding? Bombard them with stink. The most commonly recommended method of ousting opossums is by pouring some household ammonia in a coffee can and placing an old rag or towel in with it to act as a wick to help disperse the fumes. Do this everywhere that looks like a potential possum shelter. You don’t want to chase it out of one hiding hole and directly into another. Feel free to throw some moth balls around while you’re at it.
Close off the den
If the opossums in question are living under your shed, porch etc., wait and watch for them to vacate and change the locks on the door. This will usually be done at night since opossums are nocturnal. Set yourself up some high powered lamps beforehand and don’t turn them on till the critters are gone. Use some chicken wire or hardware cloth to close off any possibility of re-entry. Make sure to bury your fencing at least six inches in the dirt so they don’t just scoot in underneath. If they haven’t moved in yet, but could, close the area up before they have the chance.
Best Ways to Get Opossums out of Your Attic
- Watch the outside of your house for a few nights so you can find out exactly where the opossums are getting in and out of your attic.
- Wait for night when the opossums will be out, enter the attic and brighten the place up as much as you can. Being nocturnal creatures, opossums avoid light for fear predators will see them.
- Once the place is lit up, bring in a radio. Find a good talk radio station and play it nice and loud. Human voices are a good hindrance for almost all animals. Now find a station that’s playing Rush Limbaugh and that should be enough to scare the bejeezus out of anything.
- Since you already know where the possums entry holes are, get them blocked up after the possum leaves for the evening and the place is made as unpleasant as possible for their return.
- Finally, it’s tree trimmin’ time. Cut back any branches that an opossum might use to get to your house. You don’t have to trim them back far. They aren’t very good jumpers.
So, either you’ve done all you can think to do to make your home and yard as inhospitable to opossums as possible and they’re still coming around, or, you simply don’t want to allow the little varmints to force you into changing the way you live. Either way, you’ve still got options. Possum repellents are fairly easy to come by. One of the more popular products is Shake-Away Small Critter Repellent. This repellent uses fox urine powder to set the possums own instincts against it. Simply shake the stuff around gardens, flowerbeds, sheds etc. and the smell of a predator should keep opossums out of the vicinity. Amazon sells Shake-Off Coyote/Fox granules. Nature’s Defense is the name of another reputable product that is applied in pretty much the same way. Although I’ve been unable to find the active ingredient I suspect that there is predator urine involved. I do know that it is a completely harmless and organic product so you won’t have to worry about chemicals or poisons.
In short, If you are unable to find the products listed above, I would strongly recommend finding a product with predator urine as one of the main ingredients. Be it urine from a fox, bobcat, coyote or anything else that might make a meal out of a possum. It’s also quite easy to find concentrated sterilized urine in liquid, powder or granule form from outdoor and hunting supply shops. These should work for you too.
Natural Opossum Control
Motion activated sprinklers
Sprinklers such as the Scarecrow Motion Activated Sprinkler are a completely harmless and kinda fun way to make unwanted possums look even more like a drowned rat and send them on there ugly way.
Dog or cat hair
After brushing your dog or cat, collect the hair, deposit it in small mesh bags and hang them around the trouble areas. The smell of the pet hair is said to trick the opossum into thinking there is a predator nearby.
You may want to repeat this method every few days, as the scent on the hair can wear off after a bit. If a possum smells new hair around, it will be alarmed and likely stay away.
Since it’s one of my favorite smells on all of this green earth, I am surprised that opossums are opposed to it. But apparently, the pungent aroma is supposed to be enough to keep possums at bay.
Possums Aren't All Bad......
Keep in mind that opossums have some positive traits, one definitely being that they can eat thousands of ticks per day. Yes, that ugly, slightly unsettling possum may be helping you avoid Lyme disease. So, when in doubt, if the possums aren’t harming your house and are not overpopulating your yard at an alarming rate, consider just letting them coexist with you.