When it comes to pests, opossums are an interesting species.
Their presence in your yard can have real benefits, but at the same time can cause considerable damage to your home.
For example, opossums are known to eat smaller animals that are considered pests, like rodents or insects. They also eat insects like Ticks, that are famous for causing disease.
(Opossums are luckily resistant to most diseases that Ticks can cause).
But opossums, like raccoons, are also willing to scavenge in human trash for food. They’ll raid gardens to supplement their diet, and won’t hesitate to uproot plants or vegetables.
Occasionally, opossums make their nests in remote parts of a home, like under a deck or in an attic. Their nesting could cause damage to the structure of the house, and opossum feces can be a potential cause of illness.
However, opossums rarely ever stay in one place for more than a few nights before moving on. They’ll leave on their own, but most people don’t want to take that chance.
Before we get into how to repel Opossums, it’s important to understand what exactly these creatures are.
What Are Opossums?
Opossums are a species of mammal that make up the scientific order Didelphimorphia. The species found in the United States, officially known as the Virginia opossum, is the only subspecies found north of Mexico: all other species live in Central America or South America.
Despite their rat-like appearance, opossums are not related to rodents. They are their own unique species. Opossums are also marsupials, which means their young are raised in a pouch following their birth.
Opossums are the only marsupials that live in the Americas. All other marsupials are native to Australia, such as kangaroos or wombats.
One of the opossum’s most well-known behaviors is their ability to play dead. When an opossum is threatened or injured, it will go limp and excrete a foul odor from scent glands on its rear. The smell imitates the scent of decomposition, which prompts predators to leave the opossum alone and hunt for live prey.
This behavior is where the phrase “playing possum” comes from.
What Do Opossums Eat?
By nature, opossums are omnivores. This means that they’ll eat just about anything.
Insects play a large part in an opossum’s diet. They eat bugs like grasshoppers, beetles, and crickets. Some studies report that opossums eat 95% of all ticks that they encounter, which helps limit the spread of tick-borne diseases.
Opossums also hunt rabbits, rodents, and birds.
(They especially love going after eggs, making them a nuisance for egg farmers).
To balance their diet, an opossum will eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and other wild plants. They typically resort to vegetarianism during the fall and early winter, when most animals have gone into hibernation.
The scent of garbage often attracts opossums to urban and suburban areas. They’ll also pilfer bird feeders for a quick snack, and they might eat pet food that’s been left outside.
Are Opossums Dangerous?
Despite their appearance, opossums are NOT dangerous animals. They are actually rather docile, and are just as skittish around humans as humans are skittish around them.
When an opossum feels threatened, they will bare their teeth and make a hissing sound. Its fur will also bristle to make it appear bigger.
If that fails, an opossum will resort to playing dead.
Opossums pose no danger to pets, either. Because of their small size, an opossum won’t risk injury by attacking a dog or cat.
However, opossums can potentially carry disease. While they aren’t vectors for rabies, contact with a wild opossum can result in the transmission of tuberculosis, spotted fever, and other illnesses.
How to Repel Opossums
Opossums may not pose a threat to humans, but if they’re allowed to roam in your yard, they can be quite destructive.
The last thing anyone wants is an opossum uprooting their garden or leaving trash in the yard.
There are several different methods you can use to keep opossums out of your yard. These methods are cheap, easy to perform, and most importantly…
they are very safe.
1. Securing Your Garbage
As mentioned earlier, opossums view human garbage as an easy meal. The easiest way to keep them from rummaging through your trash is to secure your garbage bins.
Simply bringing your garbage indoors goes a long way in getting rid of opossums. By cutting off a regular source of food, they’ll look for a meal elsewhere.
2. Protecting Your Garden
If you have a fruit or vegetable garden, you can pick ripe crops to prevent opossums from getting to them first. Be sure to remove rotten crops too, as opossums will eat these in the absence of fresh food.
A garden fence may be effective against other animals, but opossums can climb them with ease. Consider lining the top of your fence with Opossum Spikes.
These spikes prevent opossums from climbing over the top of a fence, keeping them out of your garden.
As a bonus, they can keep out other animals, too!
3. Imitating Predators
Opossums are seen as prey by several different predators. These include owls, hawks, foxes, coyotes and bobcats.
Predator urine is a substance commonly used to ward off smaller animals, including opossums. Spraying it around your yard mimics a predator marking its territory, and any opossums in the area will flee elsewhere.
Another “sign” that predators are nearby is blood meal. This is a powdery product made of dried cattle blood, and it can also be sprinkled throughout your yard or garden.
To an opossum, the scent of blood indicates that a predator made a recent kill. They’ll leave the area in an attempt to escape any nearby predators.
4. Scented Objects
Many animals, including opossums, have a strong sense of smell. In fact, the smell is the strongest of an opossum’s senses.
You can easily exploit this by placing unsavory smells around your property to deter any wayward opossums.
Opossums hate the scent of garlic. Place garlic cloves around your yard, or grow some in your garden. The smell is too much even for an opossum to handle, and they will eventually leave.
Chemicals like bleach are also effective, since opossums don’t encounter chemical odors in nature. Pour a small amount of ammonia onto a rag and leave it someplace outside.
The scent will linger in the air, driving away any nearby opossums.
Use caution when using chemical products, as they could have harmful side effects on children or pets.