Hi my name is Brendan Mangnitz, I have been in the Nuisance Wildlife Removal industry now for nearly 6 years since I graduated from College at UF with a background in Entomology and Wildlife Biology. I have seen and controlled just about any wildlife issue you may think of. I have dealt with possums in apartments complex, possum removal from your everyday house hold, possums in the Attic, possums digging up yards, possums in Pools, possums stuck in Chimney’s, and the list goes on and on. I have used several different control and removal methods for possums and that’s what I want to share with you guys on our website here at Animal-Pros.com.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “playing possum” at least once in your life. This phrase originates from the weirdly-cute looking little marsupials who pretend to be dead as a natural defense. Opossums are the only marsupial native to North America. They are known scavengers and you’ve probably seen them more than once near a dead animal carcass. However, Opossums are omnivores and will eat many fruits and grains as well. They can hunt smaller animals, but are threatened easily by animals larger than them. Opossums do not usually build their own homes, they just take over abandoned nests from other animals. They typically live in a wooded area, where they have plenty of access to food and water.
Opossums have adapted, however, to the growing world around them. They are able to thrive in urban areas as well as their normal wooded homelands. In fact, our garbage is a perfect attractant to opossums as we throw away a ton of meats and other food that they are drawn to. You may at some point also see an opossum draw his mouth back and show the sharp teeth that they have, while this is a defense tactic, opossums are still not aggressive and this is more to frighten you than anything.
While it is commonly thought that opossums can hang upside down from branches with their tails, this is necessarily true. Opossums can typically grow to be about the size of a domestic house cat, and their tails cannot support their full weight. The tail of an opossum can wrap around things, and they do have opposable thumbs on their rear legs making them expert climbers. While opossums have adapted to living in an urban society, it is common to see them killed by motor vehicles. In fact, cars are one of the most common killers for opossums now.
So, you’ve established that you definitely one hundred percent have an opossum in your attic? You’re probably ready to have them out yesterday, right? You’re ready to start setting traps and getting this thing, or things, out of your home for good. There’s still one more thing you have to do before you can really get going on all of that. You need to identify exactly what kind of problem you’re dealing with, if you have a single opossum or if you have a family. If there are babies, you are going to have to be more delicate with the situation as they are basically defenseless and you don’t want them passing away in your attic if you remove the mama without them. Often, your best bet is to catch mama opossum and then hand remove the babies and release them all together.
Once you have removed all opossums from your attic space, you’ll want to seal up your home so that this issue doesn’t occur again. All animals leave a little scent trail behind them, meaning that other opossums or even bigger animals can follow the smell straight to your house, and if your house isn’t sealed up they could wind up in your attic again. This process is called an exclusion, and can typically be started while the opossum is still in your attic. You can seal any holes that aren’t their main entry. This means that you have to walk around your house and get up on your roof, probably several times over, and identify any potential access points as well. Even if they are super tiny holes, you want to seal them, as other animals can gain access through these. Once the opossum is out of your attic and relocated, you can seal up the main access points that they had been using.
After the opossum is gone and your house is sealed, there is still one more step before you finally get to relax. The cleanup process, in my opinion the nastiest part of the whole thing. You’ll need to invest in some gloves and a face mask or respirator for this so that you don’t run the risk of coming contact with any infectious diseases. Make sure to gather all of the opossum droppings (probably with a paper towel, just for added separation between you and the droppings) and dispose of them immediately. You’ll then want to go over the entire area with a disinfectant.
It can be difficult to identify that you are having an opossum issue, as many of the signs of opossum activity are similar to other wildlife animals. However, there are some very common signs that you might come across on your property to let you know that you are dealing with an opossum. Many times, you can find trash cans or composts appearing as though they have been disturbed, this would be while the opossum was foraging through them for food. If you have chicken coops, it is also known that opossums will try to attack chickens or chicks and steal eggs for food. You can also look for opossum tracks around the areas as they are very distinct. The front paw will have five toes with visible claw marks, the back will have four toes up front and the opposable toe on the back.
Opossums can also find their way into your attic occasionally. Most often, this is a mother looking for a safe place to have and keep her babies. You can hear them moving around, mostly slow and scratchy sounding. Opossums are nocturnal animals, so the noises that come with having an opossum in the attic will often come at night. You can find signs of opossums in the attic by finding torn insulation with burrows in it. They will tunnel through the insulation, and often hide their babies in it. They are more likely to seek shelter in attics during the winter months, and then late spring and early summer to have their babies. Opossums are slow and somewhat clumsy animals, they often fall behind walls in the attic leaving behind a terrible odor.
Many times, opossums gain entrance through holes already in existence. Mostly near roof returns and through loose soffit. Often times, they are too big to gain access through small entry points – such as pipes. Opossums are known for their ability to climb well due to their opposable thumb on their rear foot, and can climb most walls with ease. Occasionally, they are known to gain access through vents as well.
They are known to use low hanging tree branches over roofs as kind of a stepping stone to getting onto the roof. They can climb trees to get to the branches and then use the branches to lower themselves onto the roof. This makes it easier for them to be able to get to the access points they need. Opossums are unable to jump, so the branches must be close enough to the roof that they can get onto it with ease. If an opossum is determined to get into your attic, they will, but the low hanging branches just make it easier for them.
It is common that the original roofers do not completely seal roof returns. Opossums are able to wiggle their way into the roof returns, which are a direct access to the attic space. Many times, these entry points can go unnoticed because they are hidden in corners and are typically very dark. You can often identify these as a main access point by locating rub marks, feces, or hair left at the opening.
Opossums also enjoy hiding under decks, or under mobile homes. Often, these areas are sealed off by a lattice, which can occasionally come loose due to age or weather. Opossums will use the loose areas in lattice to find access to under the deck, or home, where they are able to seek shelter in a dark environment, typically free of other animals.
While opossums can carry many transferrable diseases, they are not very well known for carrying the rabies virus. This could be due to the fact that opossums have a very low body temperature. While you may not be highly at risk for rabies having an opossum around, there are some hazards that can arise from an opossum living in your attic.
Opossums are known for carrying several diseases, one of the most common diseases they are known to carry is leptospirosis. This infection is transmitted through their urine or feces, and can result in kidney damage. They are also well-known for being carriers of salmonella. While both of these diseases can be treated in a hospital with no problem, you still want to use extreme caution when dealing with opossums. Opossums have also been linked to carrying the tuberculosis disease as well as toxoplasmosis – a parasite found in the feces of both cats and opossums. While, you may know to use gloves when in contact with opossum feces, your house cat is definitely not, and even if they don’t have the toxoplasmosis parasite, they could easily get it from coming in contact with opossum feces.
Since opossums are wild animals, they can also bring fleas and ticks into your home. While it may seem like this only becomes an issue if you have pets, flea infestations aren’t fun for anyone, pets or no pets.
Unlike many other wild animals that find their way into attics, opossums are not known for gnawing or chewing on things. They will tear your insulation, but you fortunately don’t have to worry too much about them going to town on electrical wiring or the beams of your roof. Typically, damage done by opossums in attics is much less severe than of rodents or larger wildlife animals.
While opossums may cause less physical damage to the attic, they leave a lot more behind. And by a lot more, I do mean poop. While many other wildlife animals are known for using a latrine system, where most droppings are located in one sort of clustered area, opossums will leave their droppings wherever they like, whenever they like. While this may make the identification process easier, it definitely does not make the clean-up process easy.
You can identify opossum feces as being rather large with tapered ends rather than rounded, this commonly looks like droppings from a small dog. While most often being brown in color, they are also known to occasionally have a white-ish or yellow-ish color of mold growing around it. It is not often that it is a straight line either, their droppings tend to curl around.
While it may be difficult to identify the dropping itself as being an opossum, as they greatly resemble a raccoons droppings, the most identifying factor you want to look for is the spread of where the feces is. If you can notice that it has been spread throughout the attic with no real rhyme or reason, it is more than likely an opossum. Whereas if it is at least somewhat in one area, it is probably another animal.
It is important to remember that while you are trying to identify the droppings you may have to get up close and personal – which is disgusting, yes. If you are planning to do this, you must wear protective gear, such as gloves and a face mask. While not necessary, you’ll also probably want to take a nice hot shower afterwards too just for your own sanity (when I say they poop everywhere, I mean everywhere).
Trapping an opossum can get to be a tricky task, as they are naturally cautious animals. Your best bet is going to be purchasing a large steel trap cage. These are humane traps that will keep the opossum alive and well so that you can simply relocate it to a new area – far away from your home. There are many products out there that claim to be opossum poison or repellent, but these are not very effective. In fact, live trapping the opossum is the most effective way to get rid of your problem. If you attempt to poison the opossum, it has the potential to pass away in your attic, leaving you with a terrible odor. If the animal is trapped in a cage outside, you can see when you have it and are able to remove it easily.
You want to be sure to check your trap often, probably twice or more a day. You want to try and remove the opossum as quickly as possible. If the animal sits in the hot sun, it could potentially pass away from the heat. Not only is this a rather inhumane way to let the animal die, but if left for even a night, the odor could potentially bring even more wildlife to your yard to investigate. You could potentially make your problem ten times worse this way.
When you are placing your traps, you want to try and place them in an area where you notice opossum damage. Example being, if you have a garden and you notice that every morning your prized tomatoes are scattered everywhere, you probably want to set a trap near the tomato plant since you know the opossum is likely to visit there. The best is to try and identify the path that he or she is taking every night when out for food, and try to place traps along this path.
A common issue that comes with trapping opossums is not knowing what kind of bait to use. This is because opossums will eat anything, they eat out of your garbage! So, what kind of bait is supposed to lure them in? Well, while you could in theory throw just anything in the trap and they’d eat it, it might not work like you’re thinking. There are a couple of baits that work best on opossums. Commonly, opossums prefer meats, so you want to try to lean toward meats over anything else.
One of the most popular baits is canned cat food, the smell will lure any opossum to the area and often times they are intoxicated by the smell of the chicken and tuna and will wander right into the trap. However, using this bait can come with a major fallback; you may end up catching your neighbor’s cat. While opossums love this bait, it is originated for cats and the cats will also try to get their share of it. This is another reason you want to check your traps often, you don’t want the crazy cat lady next door to see her sweet baby in a trap, because then you’re on her bad side, and no one likes being on crazy cat lady’s bad side.
You can also use fish scraps or apples as a bait. These may attract other wildlife animals, but opossums will also enjoy them. Trapping an opossum could take longer than you think, so don’t discouraged if you haven’t caught one by the end of your first week. You also don’t want to change the bait every day that you don’t catch something, the constant sudden changes may deter them from going near the trap. If you haven’t caught anything with a bait after a couple of days (maybe 4 or 5) then change the baits.