Opossums might not be the most destructive animals in the world, but they can definitely be a menace if they take up residence in your home or garden. To help you to get rid of them, I’ve put together this guide with everything you need to know about dealing with these pesky creatures.
There are many ways to get rid of opossums. Most methods involve either removing attractants and limiting access to your home by sealing entryways and putting up fences, using electronic or chemical-based opossum repellents, or using live opossum traps to catch and relocate the creatures.
The best method for you will depend mainly on the whereabouts of the possum, as well as local laws and your own personal preferences. We’ll walk you through everything in this article step-by-step so that you can figure out which method to use.
Signs You Have an Opossum Problem
The first step in getting rid of opossums is figuring out their whereabouts. That way, you’ll be able to select the right control method and know where to place it.
Opossums are small marsupials that are usually brown or grey. They’re sneaky creatures that only usually come out at night so, even if they’re living on your property, you might never see them.
Instead, you’ll have to look out for some signs of their presence. You see, opossums have a few destructive habits that are pretty easy to pick up on, like:
- Stealing food from your trash cans
- Eating fruits and berries from your garden
- Stealing your birdseed
- Destroying your ductwork
- Chewing through your wiring
- Nesting in your attic
- Ripping up soffit from your rooftop
- Eating your pet food
They can also be pretty noisy and smelly (or at least, their droppings are) so if you hear animal noises or scratches or smell an unpleasant odor, it’s a good indication that there’s a opossum present.
You’ll know where the opossum is hanging around by where you notice these signs. For example, if you’re hearing noises in your home, noticing an unpleasant smell coming from the attic, and you’re having problems with your electrical wiring, the opossums probably nesting up there.
On the other hand, if there’s none of the above and the only problems are outside, it might just be visiting your garden a little too often.
How to Get Rid of Opossums in Attic
Let’s start with the attic. There are two ways to get rid of opossums in the attic: by ‘scaring it off’ and by trapping it. Most people agree that the first way is the most humane, so let’s start with that.
Step 1: Remove All Food From the Attic.
The first step is to get rid of any food attractants from the area. If you’ve been storing pet food or anything edible in the attack, remove it and seal it away somewhere inaccessible. You should also remove other food sources from your garden, like bird feeders or outdoor pet bowls.
Step 2: Install Some Bright Lights
Opossums are nocturnal. As such, they’re most active in the dark and don’t like the light. Install a few high-wattage lights in your attic and leave them on at night time. It might seem like a waste of energy, but it will help to send your opossum scurrying off into the night, away from your attic.
Step 3: Scatter Ammonia-Soaked Rags in the Attic
Nobody likes the smell of ammonia, but opossums really hate it. It’s one of the most effective chemical-based deterrents for opossums, so soak a few rags in the stuff and leave them around the attic. It probably won’t smell too good up there for a while, but it’s better than opossum poop, right? So it’s worth it!
Step 4: Play Loud Music in the Attic
Opossums also don’t like loud noises. Therefore, it helps to set up a speaker system or radio in the attic and play music at high volumes throughout the day (and night). This, combined with the ammonia rags and the bright lights, should be a complete sensory overload for the opossum that will hopefully encourage it to abandon the attic and find a new, more attractive nesting spot.
Step 5: Seal Up the Attic with Mesh
You can’t continue to play loud music and leave bright lights on forever so, once the opossum has left, nail some mesh over the cracks and spaces in the attic to stop it from getting back in. Make sure it’s definitely left before you do this, though, otherwise you’ll be sealing it inside and not out!
Step 6: Limit Access to the Attic
Opossums usually enter your attic through cracks in your roof, vents, or other gaps in your foundations. To prevent this, fix any broken vents and seal any open gaps that opossums might be using to enter your home.
They’re also skilled climbers and usually, they gain access to this area of your home by climbing up trees. Trim all tree branches within around 10 feet of your home and they shouldn’t be able to get back in.
The Trap Method
Alternatively, an arguably easier way to get rid of an opossum from your attic is by using a trap.
Many people recommend this as the best way to get rid of an opossum that is inside your home but it’s worth remembering that even humane traps can lead to the opossum’s death as the animal can struggle to find food and shelter if you forcefully trap and relocate it. It may also be illegal in some areas depending on local trapping and relocating laws.
Humane opossum traps have an open door in the front that snaps shut when the opossum enters via a floor trigger, locking it inside so that it can be safely relocated.
When you set your trap, turn off the light in the attic and make sure that the path to the trap is clear. Bait the trap with something that opossums like to eat and that has a strong odor. Smelly fish is a popular choice but Experts from the University of California recommend using whole raw chicken eggs, jam, or peanut butter, as these foods attract possums but not cats.
Make sure you check the trap regularly as it’s not humane to keep the opossum trapped for long periods. Once you’ve caught the opossum, relocate it in a safe location that is permissible by local laws, open the trap, and give plenty of space for the opossum to exit.
How to Get Rid of Possums in Garage
Getting rid of opossums in a garage is very similar to getting rid of opossums in an attic. Start by removing all food sources and other attractants from the area, and then put some deterrents in-place like bright lights and ammonia-soaked rags.
Wait for the opossum to leave your garage (this will be at night as opossums are active during the night) and then lock your garage door and seal off all entry points. You can use chicken wire, hardware cloths, and fencing to make sure the garage is completely secure. Remember that opossums can dig, too, so bury your fences a few inches under the dirt.
A lot of people have cat or dog flaps installed in their garages, but this is a super bad idea if you have an opossum problem, so seal them up. It’s basically a door for opossums- you may as well put out a welcome mat!
How to Get Rid of Possums in Backyard
Getting rid of possums in your backyard is a little different. It’s outdoors, so it’s not like you can blast loud music or bright lights all night to scare them away as you can in your attic – the neighbors probably wouldn’t be happy if you did!
Plus, once you get rid of possums from your backyard, it’s very difficult to fully seal it off, and the opossums can always just come back.
For that reason, methods for getting rid of opossums from backyards focus instead on deterrent systems that make your backyard an unappealing place for the opossum to be. Here’s what you need to do.
Step 1: Remove Any Food Sources
Opossums are omnivores and will eat pretty much anything: garbage, fruit, vegetables, dog food… you name it! Try to make sure there’s nothing edible for the opossum in your garden.
If you feed your pets outside and leave their food bowls out there, take them inside instead. If you must leave them outside, make sure you clean them thoroughly after you’ve fed your pets. Opossums have a really great sense of smell so even a trace of cat food can attract them. Make sure your garbage is secure too.
If you’re growing fruits or vegetables in your yard, getting rid of food sources can be a little trickier. Ideally, you’ll have planted things that opossums don’t like, like tea tree and geraniums, but if not, you’ll have to try to protect your fruits and vegetables through other means.
You can wap individual fruits and vegetables while they’re on trees using cloth bags. Alternatively, you can use a place a plant pot over the fruit to cover up most of it. If you have garden beds or allotments, enclose them using fencing or otherwise so that the opossums can’t access them.
Step 2: Put Some Repellents Into Place
The next step is to put some repellents into place to deter the opossums. There are three different types of repellents that can be used. These are:
- Contact repellents – these repellents are applied to things that opossums come into contact with, like plants, and work through taste and odor. They contain things like capsaicin and pepper.
- Area repellents – these repellents usually contain urine from animals that are predators to opossums, such as foxes, or other smells that they don’t like, such as ammonia and garlic. They create a kind of odor barrier that keeps opossums away from certain areas.
- Electronic repellents – these are devices such as motion-activated sprinklers that physically deter or repel opossums through some mechanism.
Of the three, electronic repellents are widely considered to be more effective at getting rid of opossums. Opossums may get used to the scents and tastes used in contact and area repellents, or simply ignore them altogether.
Step 3: Install Fencing
The repellent system and removal of food sources should have already done a lot to make your garden an unattractive place, but if you’ve got a really persistent opossum, it might not be enough.
That’s why a final measure you should take is to install fencing in your garden to keep them out. Opossums are great climbers and no fence is completely guaranteed to keep them out, but it will make it more difficult for them to access certain areas.
The most effective fences are woven wire fences that are around 5 feet high (or more). You can make it even harder to get past by adding an outward angle at the top and burying it a few feet deep into the ground.
Opossums Damage in House and Attic
You might be wondering whether you even need to get rid of opossums. Well, the truth is that, although mostly harmless, if an opossum starts nesting in your house or attic, it can cause a fair bit of damage.
These creatures defecate very frequently and, though they might be small and cute, their poop definitely isn’t. Their droppings are similar in size to a house cat’s and are wet, which means they easily soak into insulation and flooring. When this happens, you’ll be left with a very unpleasant odor.
They can also destroy the insulation and electrical wiring in your attic if they decide to take nest there. Some opossums even become trapped in that wiring and die, which can lead to a strong smell of decay that can be tough to get rid of.
As opossums typically enter homes by climbing up the exterior, they can also cause exterior damage such as torn up roof tiles, damaged guttering, and more.
It’s also worth noting that, although one opossum might seem manageable, they can give birth to multiple litters per year and the infestation can spread quickly. To avoid this, it’s advisable to get rid of opossums at the first signs of damage to your home.
What Attracts Opossums to Your House?
Opossums are attracted to homes for two reasons: food and shelter. They usually enter your yard first after being attracted by food. That might be the plants you’re growing, your barbecues, the smell coming from your trash, or anything else.
Once they’re nearby, they might decide to move into your home because it’s a convenient source of shelter. They like to take nest in dry, warm, covered areas, and your attic fits the bill. Other frequent nesting places for opossums include woodpiles, logs, and garden decking.
Limiting access to your home, removing food sources, and making sure your yard and trash are clean (so as to avoid attractive odors) all help to ensure that opossums aren’t attracted to your house.
What Diseases Do Opossums Carry?
Opossums are known carriers of many different harmful diseases such as:
- Relapsing fever
- Spotted fever
- Chagas disease
In addition to these diseases, they can also carry external parasites such as ticks, mites, lice, and fleas. As a result of these infestations, Opossums have been known to transfer flea-based typhus and cases of this transmission have been on the increase in west coast regions of the US, including LA and Orange County.
If you suspect that you have an opossum frequenting or living in your home, it’s best to deal with this problem as soon as possible, as things like ticks and fleas can quickly transfer to household pets and begin to spread throughout your home.
Do Opossums Carry Lyme Disease?
According to a fact sheet published by the Center for Food Security and Public Health at the Iowa State University, Opossums are one of many animals that can be carriers of Lyme disease. As mentioned earlier, Opossums often carry ticks. A bite from an infected tick can infect the Opossums and other small rodents with Lyme disease.
This makes Opossums potentially harmful to human health, as the same infected ticks can be transferred to humans that come into close contact with an animal carrying it. It takes around 24 hours for a tick to infect a human.
The effects of Lyme disease on humans vary from minor symptoms to severe reactions so if you do see a tick on your body or suspect you may have been bitten, it’s a good idea to seek medical advice promptly.
How Much Does Opossum Removal Cost?
Opossum removal services typically range from around $150 – $500, but it may be more or less than that. There are a lot of different factors that affect the price, such as:
- Where you live and the labor costs in that area
- The company you use
- The nature of the infestation
- The layout of your home
- Where the opossums are located (attic, backyard, etc)
- Additional services that are required (such as sealing access points in your attic, cutting down trees, etc).
Most animal control services will provide you with a quote upon consultation. Every opossum removal job is different, so it’s impossible to say what the cost will be without knowing more about the problem. The only real way to find out is to give them a call and ask for a price.
What Time Do Opossums Come Out at Night?
Opossums usually come out of their dens around 30 minutes after sunset so it really depends on the daylight hours. They start feeding around two hours after that.
Of course, this is just a general estimate. Opossums will occasionally come out earlier or later, depending on the weather and many other factors. Some opossums even come out in the day if they’re ill or starving.
Is it Legal to Kill Opossums?
The legality of killing opossums differs from state to state. You should check local laws before killing, trapping, or relocating opossums as it may be illegal.
In some states, the laws differ depending on intent. In California, for example, it is illegal to intentionally and maliciously kill any animal, but may be considered legal if the animal is dangerous to life, limb, or property. There was an interesting court case about this very topic recently.
The Washington Department for Fish and Wildlife states that the opossum can be trapped (using live traps) or killed year-round without a permit. It also states that it’s unlawful to release an opossum within the state outside of your property unless you have a permit.
It’s your responsibility to do your own research and make sure any actions you take to deal with opossums are legal in your area.