August 3, 2020 / Wildlife

Opossums: Friends or Pests?

Opossums: Friends or Pests?

If you’ve ever taken out the trash at night and ran into an opossum, you know that unexpectedly running into one of these sharp-toothed marsupials in the middle of the night can be a terrifying experience. Their angular faces, their menacing hiss and, of course, those teeth. They look like a creature plucked straight out of a nightmare. But are they really something to fear, or do they just seem frightening?

A Misunderstood Species

Fortunately, for us humans, opossums do far more good than harm. For one, they terrorize another species that we definitely want to see less of in our yards -- ticks. Opossums can eat up to 5,000 ticks in a season, which cuts down on our risk of contracting Lyme disease. But that’s not all. 

They also eat other pests like insects, carrion, rotten fruit and rodents. The National Opossum Society even calls them “nature’s little sanitation engineers.” It turns out, this beneficial species is much maligned and undeserving of its bad reputation. Even the rumors of widespread rabies are vastly overblown.

In fact, opossums seldom ever contract rabies at all. Although any mammal (and marsupials are a type of mammal) can catch rabies, opossums have lower body temperatures than most other mammals (around 94 to 97º F), which may make it difficult for the rabies virus to survive in their bodies.

Even still, you’d be forgiven if you’d rather not ever come face-to-furry-face with a feral opossum. Although they might do wonders for the population of ticks and other insects in your yard, there probably aren’t many chores for them to do inside your house. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to scare away opossums, such as:

  • Scare them with light: Opossums aren’t big fans of bright lights, so any motion detecting lights on the perimeter of your house will likely startle any who wander too close.
  • Scare them with scent: If you have any pets, either dogs or cats, you can collect their fur and scatter it around the outside of your house. Opossums will think they smell a predator and go the other way.
  • Scare them with other scents: A small amount of ammonia in a coffee can with a cloth poked through the lid as a wick will ward off opossums. Crushed garlic will, too.
  • Scare them with a commercial repellent: Usually made of animal urine, like pet hair, commercial products trick opossums into thinking a predator is near.

Not only do you want to make them turn around when they get to your door, you also want to remove anything that might be inviting them in the first place. Don’t intentionally leave out food for them -- after all, you want them eating the ticks and other vermin in your yard, right? Also, keep your trash cans lidded and locked so opossums can’t get in. Finally, feed your animals indoors so they don’t accidentally leave any pet food outdoors. 

Best of all, rely on the expertise of a pest control company. A specially trained technician will set up cruelty-free traps and then release the opossum or opossums into the wild again -- far away from your neighborhood.

Overrun by opossums? Check out our wildlife removal page and request a free quote today.