Humane Rescue Alliance

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Opossums

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Humane Rescue Alliance

Opossums are small to medium-sized nocturnal marsupials very common throughout North America. They usually have white to black fur with round ears and a long, prehensile tail. They are omnivorous and eat a large variety of foods - small animals, vegetation, nuts, berries, and anything else they can scavenge. They are solitary and slow, and they do not cause much damage to human homes. Opossums actually eat a large amount of pest animals including snails, slugs, and snakes.

Opossums are usually shy and harmless, though they may display their teeth and hiss when they feel threatened. This animal can also “play dead” and freeze until they feel they are no longer in danger. A female opossum may have up to two litters of babies per year and can have up to 10 babies in each litter.

Opossums usually do not den in one place for very long, but if there are attractive things around like food set out for community cats or a snug hole under your porch, they may decide to stay longer to take advantage of the easy food and shelter.

If you find an opossum has taken up residence under your home or in your wall or attic, you can persuade him to leave by using humane harassment techniques:

  • Place a bright light in or around where the opossum is denning and play loud music nearby the area. 
  • Turn off the light and music occasionally to allow the opossum to feel safe enough to escape the area. 
  • Once the opossum has left, make sure to permanently patch any holes in your home and bring in cat food at night to dissuade wild animals from coming back.

You can also use resources like the One Way Door or Critter Ridder to help an opossum steer clear of your home. If you see opossums in your area, know that unless there is an easy source of food in the vicinity or ideal shelter, opossums usually browse and then move on. If you or a neighbor is feeding community cats or outdoor pets, simply remove this food source at night, and you will not see opossums around nearly as often.

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