First, let's start by getting a misconception out of the way. An opossum isn't a possum. Opossums, pronounced eh·pah·sems, are marsupials of the order Didelphimorphia and they are indigenous to North America. Possums are of the order Diprotodontia and they are indigenous to Australia. So when you're talking about opossums with your friends and family (because that happens all the time) remember that the o isn't silent and that possums don't live in Maine. Now that we've taken care of that little piece of housekeeping, let's get on to the more important matter of what you need to know about opossums in South Portland.
It is fairly simple to identify an opossum. Its white face, black eyes, and pink nose are quite distinct. An adult opossum is about 40 inches in length. That's about the size of a house cat. For more information about identification and the traits of this animal, check out Five Things You Didn't Know About Opossums.
- When these furry critters come into your yard, they don't come alone. They carry ticks, fleas, mites, and other parasites with them. This can expose your dogs and cats to fleas in your yard.
- They often damage lawns as they dig for food.
- They can damage ductwork and insulation with their scratching.
- If you have a chicken coup, opossums can be a serious threat. They kill and eat chickens.
- While they often just hiss threateningly, an opossum can attack if it is cornered or protecting its young. It is rare though.
- Opossums can be hosts for several diseases such as tularemia, leptospirosis, tuberculosis, etc.
- Opossum nests are messy and frustrating to clean up.
Opossums and Rabies
You would think that opossums would be a strong candidate for rabies due to their lifestyle and food choices but they rarely carry this virus. But you might think you have a rabid opossum in your yard because they bear their teeth and often foam at the mouth to scare predators away.
Opossums come into South Portland yards in search of food. It is important that you know what they're looking for so that you can remove or protect these food sources. Here are some examples:
- Opossums get into trash. These animals are often opportunistic eaters and they are not as picky about what they eat as we are. If you have trash bags or open piles of trash with organic matter inside, you're going to attract these critters. Put trash bags in containers with a lid and make sure your trash containers are secure. If an opossum can tip your trash over to get to the food that it can smell, it will.
- Opossums eat bird seed. If you have bird feeders near your home, you're likely to attract opossums. Move feeders to at least 20 feet from your exterior walls to prevent unwanted problems with these and other animals.
- Opossums eat slugs, snails, and worms. If you have moisture issues around your home, you're going to have more of these slimy creatures. If you do, opossums will take notice.
- Opossums will dine on pet food. It is a good rule of thumb to not feed your pets outside, but if you must, consider putting food down only during mealtimes and never overnight. Opossums are nocturnal by nature.
- Opossums eat vegetables, berries, and fruit. There isn't a lot you can do about this one. Opossums are great climbers and leapers. Sorry.
As mentioned above, they eat chickens. Protect your chickens with chicken wire.
When opossums come into your South Portland yard, they may decide to stay, if you have harborage options. They'll hide under porches, sheds, and outbuildings. They get into barns and garages. And due to their excellent climbing ability, they often get into attic spaces. You can prevent them by applying fencing around structures and by routinely inspecting and fixing damaged soffits and roof penetration seals.
Perhaps the most important thing you should know about these critters is that Big Blue Bug Solutions has a top-notch wildlife control department that is equipped to humanely deal with opossum infestations and to assist you in reducing the threat of these animals on your South Portland property. Contact us anytime for fast and effective wildlife control. We're here to help.