Opossum infestations in a garden can be a nuisance for homeowners as they can cause damage to plants and property. These marsupials are known to eat fruits, vegetables, and other plants, as well as raid garbage cans, bird feeders, and pet food. They can also carry diseases and parasites that can be harmful to both humans and other animals.
- Damage to plants, including chewed leaves and stems, holes in the fruit or vegetables and sometimes even the whole plant can be uprooted
- Missing fruits and vegetables
- Raids on garbage cans, bird feeders, and pet food, where they can scatter debris around the area
- Scattered debris such as droppings, which can be found in gardens, decks, porches or garages, and tracks, which can be seen on soft soil or mud.
- Presence of opossums at night, as they are nocturnal animals and will be active during the night time
- Hearing noises such as scratching, rustling or chattering, as they move around in the attic, walls or under the porch
- Seeing opossums around during the day, which is not common but can happen if they feel threatened or sick.
What is an Opossum
An opossum can have the following physical characteristics:
- Grayish-white fur
- Pointed snout
- Long, hairless tail
- Sharp teeth and claws
- Opposable thumbs on hind feet
- Rounded ears
- Black eyes and nose
- Rounded body shape
- Adult size of about 2-3 feet long from nose to tail tip
- Typically weigh between 4-14 pounds
- They have a generally sluggish appearance, and when threatened they can “play possum” and feign death to deter predators.
Treating Opossum Infestations
It’s important to keep in mind that opossums are wild animals, they may become accustomed to repellents over time and may not be as effective in the long run. Habitat modification and exclusion should be the primary focus when dealing with opossum infestations. Trapping and relocating should be done only by professional wildlife experts, as it is not always the best solution and can have negative impacts on the animal and the ecosystem. It may be necessary to use multiple methods to effectively treat an opossum infestation in a garden. Consultation with a wildlife professional is always recommended.
- Identify all possible entry points to your home and garden, such as holes, gaps, or openings, and seal them with materials like steel wool, caulk, or hardware cloth.
- Check for and repair broken screens, vents, and windows, as opossums can squeeze through small spaces.
- Install chimney caps to prevent opossums from entering through the chimney.
- Secure lids on trash cans, compost bins, and pet food containers to prevent opossums from raiding them.
- Use heavy-duty fencing to create a barrier around your garden or property. It should be at least 4 feet tall and buried at least 6 inches underground to prevent opossums from digging under it.
- Pick up fallen fruits, berries and nuts, and remove compost piles as these can attract opossums.
- Trim overgrown bushes, trees, and shrubs to eliminate hiding places for opossums.
- Keep outdoor lighting to a minimum as opossums are attracted to bright lights.
- Keep your lawn mowed, as tall grass will provide cover for opossums.
- Remove woodpiles, debris, and other clutter that can provide shelter for opossums
Trapping and Releasing
- Use live traps to catch opossums and release them in a remote area far from your home or garden.
- Place the trap in a location where opossums have been seen, baited with overripe fruits or vegetables.
- Once trapped, release the opossum at least 5 miles away from your home.
- It is important to note that trapping and relocating opossums is illegal in some states and should be done under the guidance of a wildlife professional. Also, opossums are beneficial animals and should be treated humanely.
- Use commercial repellents that are specifically formulated to repel opossums. These repellents can be in the form of sprays, granules, or electronic devices.
- Repellents should be applied around the perimeter of your garden or property, and reapplied as needed.
- Some repellents contain predator urine, bloodmeal, or other natural animal scents that can deter opossums from entering the area.
- Keep in mind that repellents may not be 100% effective and may need to be combined with other methods.