Preventing Conflicts With Opossums.
In urban areas, opossums are beneficial as rodent and carrion eaters. They also clean up uneaten food that might otherwise attract mice and rats. However, in rural areas the impact of non-native opossums preying upon native invertebrates, small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, ground-nesting birds, nestlings, and eggs is of concern to wildlife biologists.
As long as they are kept out of human homes, not cornered, and their interaction with pets is limited, opossums are not dangerous. If an opossum finds its way into your house, stay calm, close surrounding interior doors, leave the room, and let the animal find its own way out through the pet door or an open door or window. If necessary, gently use a broom to coral the opossum outside. Do not corner an opossum, thereby forcing it to defend itself.
Their 50 teeth (more than any other mammal in North America) give opossums a menacing look when threatened.
Although generally gentle and placid, opossums have 50 teeth and will use them to protect themselves, or their young So avoid close encounters.
An opossum’s search for food may lead it to a vegetable garden, garbage can, or chicken coop. Its search for a den site may lead it to an attic, chimney, or crawl space. The most effective way to prevent conflicts is to modify the habitat around your home so as not to attract opossums.
Recommendations on how to do this are given below:
Don’t feed opossums. Feeding opossums may create undesirable situations for you, your children, neighbors, pets, and the opossums themselves. Opossums that are fed by people often lose their fear of humans and may become aggressive when not fed as expected. Artificial feeding also tends to concentrate opossums in a small area; overcrowding can spread diseases and parasites. Finally, these hungry visitors might approach a neighbor who doesn’t share your appreciation of the animals. The neighbor might choose to remove these opossums, or have them removed.
Don’t give opossums access to garbage. Keep your garbage can lid on tight by securing it with rope, chain, bungee cords, or weights. Better yet, buy garbage cans with clamps or other mechanisms that hold lids on. To prevent tipping, secure side handles to metal or wooden stakes driven into the ground. Or keep your cans in tight-fitting bins, a shed, or a garage. Put garbage cans out for pickup in the morning, after opossums have returned to their resting areas.
Feed dogs and cats indoors and keep them in at night. If you must feed your pets outside, do so in late morning or at midday, and pick up food, water bowls, leftovers, and spilled food well before dark every day.
Keep pets indoors at night. If cornered, opossums may attack dogs and cats. Bite wounds from opossums can result in fractures and disease transmission.
Prevent opossums from entering pet doors. Keep indoor pet food and any other food away from a pet door. Lock the pet door at night. If it is necessary to have it remain open, put an electronically activated opener on your pet’s collar. Note: Floodlights or motion detector lights placed above the pet door to scare opossums are not long-term solutions.
Put food in secure compost containers and clean up barbecue areas. Don’t put food of any kind in open compost piles; instead, use a securely covered compost structure or a commercially available opossums-proof composter to prevent attracting opossums and getting exposed to their droppings. A covered worm box is another alternative. If burying food scraps, cover them with at least 8 inches of soil and don’t leave any garbage above ground in the area—including the stinky shovel. Cover the burial site with heavy wire mesh and a weight as further prevention.
Clean barbecue grills and grease traps thoroughly following each use.
Opossums access to rooftops can be eliminated by installing sheets of aluminum flashing, at least 3 feet square, around the corners of buildings. Commercially available metal or plastic spikes can help keep opossums off of buildings.
Eliminate access to denning sites. Opossums commonly use chimneys, attics, and spaces under houses, porches, and sheds as den sites. Close any potential entries with ¼-inch mesh hardware cloth, boards, or metal flashing. Make all connections flush and secure to keep mice, rats, and other mammals out. Make sure you don’t trap an animal inside when you seal off a potential entry.
Install a commercially designed and engineered chimney cap (homemade caps are often unsafe and may be a fire hazard). You can still have fires in your fireplace; however, the “cap” will keep opossums and other wildlife out.
Prevent opossums from accessing rooftops by trimming tree limbs away from structures and by attaching sheets of metal flashing around corners of buildings. Remove vegetation on buildings, such as English ivy, which provide opossums a way to climb structures and hide their access point inside.
Information provided by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Russell Link, and Michael Holmquist
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