Possums: A Favorite Critter for Gardeners
YardDoc offers humane wildlife removal and relocation to include critters like possums, skunks, and raccoons. Learn more about your resident possum before you decide whether to adopt him or send him kindly on his way.
What are Possums?
Possums are medium-sized marsupials native to North America. Scientifically named Virginia Opossum, they are the only species found in the United States.
They are omnivorous, which means they eat all kinds of things from fruits and berries to bugs, including cockroaches, crickets and beetles. Like French cuisine connoisseurs, they relish snails. And they also eat mice and rats, toads and snakes.
For this reason, many Austin homeowners cherish their resident possum, who works quietly at night, clearing our gardens of unwanted pests. Some people refer to the possum as Nature’s Little Sanitation Engineer.
Possums are capable climbers and can scale almost any structure.
They have prehensile tails and opposable thumbs, meaning they can grip things with their tail and paws, like a monkey.
Possums are solitary and nomadic, but usually remain in one area where food and water are readily available.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Get Rid of Possums?
As noted, possums are worth keeping on your property. However, if you don't want it there, we have a number of recommendations on how to make your home less attractive to possums and how to discourage them.
In the rare case that the possum needs to be relocated, you should contract with a professional, licensed critter control and relocation service, like YardDoc.
FUN FACT: Possums are one of the world's most successful animals. 70 million years ago they lived alongside dinosaurs! Some people refer to them as 'living fossils'.
Are Possums Dangerous?
Possums are not aggressive or dangerous. On the contrary, they are quite shy and docile.
While they can look fierce when they open their mouths and bare their teeth, making a hissing noise, this is all actually a scared-stiff defense mechanism.
Possums try avoid any confrontation. If they can’t get away, they will play dead as a last resort.
When they adopt the frozen, mouth-wide-open stance you will notice that they do have pretty nasty looking teeth, and being a wild animal they can be unpredictable. Although not common, they may bite as a last resort, so don’t pick one up, not even one that's playing possum!
As far as diseases, possums appear to be resistant to rabies and Lyme disease, and have immunity from snake venom.
Will Possums Attack My Pets?
No. They will make every effort to avoid any contact with people or pets.
In fact, their short life-span of one to two years is due to possums being killed by dogs, cats and other predators.
FUN FACT: Possums have 50 teeth, which is an unusually full jaw for a mammal!
Why Are Possums Attracted to My Property?
Possums, like most other critters will find your property attractive if it has available water, food and a place to shelter.
- Water: Standing water outdoors is all they need. This could be a pond, bird bath, pet food dish or other open water storage container.
- Food: Trash is the most common food attractant for possums. Pet food that is left out overnight is also an easy meal. They'll eat fruit or nuts fallen from trees and forage through a composting pile for grubs.
- Shelter: Possums will shelter almost anywhere that is dry. They will often take shelter in burrows under a foundation, in the crawl space under a building or in an attic. They are also known to shelter under piles of wood or rocks.
What Are the Signs that I Might Have a Possum on My Property?
- Seeing a possum is an obvious sign. But they are secretive and nocturnal, and in most instances you don’t see possums despite them being there.
- Trash cans that have been scrummaged through at night and pieces of trash dispersed around your property.
- Scratch marks or damage to the exterior of your building. Like raccoons, possums can be fairly destructive, often tearing up shingles, ripping soffit and chewing through siding or whatever is blocking their path.
- Pet food that gets finished overnight, especially cat food (in fact especially salmon cat food!)
- Possums sounds at night. They can be quite vocal including hissing, clicking and shrieking sounds.
- Loud scratching noises from their sharp claws.
- Unpleasant smells. Possums defecate more than most similar-sized mammals and their droppings are about the size of a cat's. These wet droppings smell foul and can impregnate insulation, wood, etc., which often causes a distinctly bad smell.
- Possum scat or foot prints. The droppings are around 3/4-inch in diameter, one to two inches long and taper off at the ends. Fresh possum droppings are brown in color, and they stink!
How Can I Make My Property Less Attractive to Possums?
Here are some easy and effective actions you can take to discourage a possum from hanging around your home.
- Secure your trash cans so that they can't be opened by a critter. Lid clamps, bungee cords, locking mechanisms or even a solid weight will work to keep the trash can closed tight.
- Don't leave pet food or water outdoors. If it has to be outdoors, then bring it in before dark.
- If you have fruit trees, pick up fallen fruit.
- Preferably keep compost in an enclosed container because grubs are an enticing attractant for possums.
- Seal access points to the crawl space beneath your building and ensure that there are no external access points to your attic. Air vents should have wire mesh covering over any openings.
- Keep tree limbs cut back four to five feet from your roofline.
- Avoid keeping piles of debris, old wood, and rocks as these are often used as shelter by possums.
- Shine bright lights into areas where they are sheltering.
- Play loud music nearby.
- Place a rag soaked in ammonia close to where they are nesting. Put it on something waterproof so that the smell doesn’t impregnate whatever is below it.
If these less direct approaches don’t motivate the critter to move on voluntarily, then contact a professional and licensed wildlife relocation service like YardDoc to humanely remove the offending possum.
Is There a Humane Way of Getting Rid of Possums?
Yes there is, if it is done right!
Relocating a possum or any wild animal cannot be guaranteed as humane, because the animal is taken out of its home environment.
When it's moved to a new location, it may end up competing with existing animal populations for water, food territory and shelter spots.
If it is done correctly, as we do at YardDoc, then the relocated animal has a fighting chance.
YardDoc’s Critter Relocation Rules
These are the guidelines we follow when relocation is the best outcome for homeowner and wildlife.
- Avoid relocating critters when there is a good likelihood that it's a mother with babies. We wait until the young would be able to fend for themselves and then relocate the family.
- If the animal has to be moved and is too young to look after itself then we take it to a wildlife animal rescue facility.
- Monitor traps daily and relocate on the day of capture.
- Relocate to a greenbelt that has adequate space away from roads, homes and businesses where water, food and shelter are readily available, and that is at least 10 miles from the place of capture.
Possum Control by YardDoc
We have a number of recommendations on how to make your home less attractive to possums, and how to deter them. In Texas, only a licensed professional is permitted to transport a wild animal such as a possum.
Let us know if we can help with preventing, dissuading, or relocating possums, or other critter control concerns.
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