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Opossums, pronouns aw-possum, are occasional wildlife visitors in Rhode Island. Perhaps you've seen one—though it isn't likely. They are nocturnal animals that visit your yard while you're sleeping. But you may detect their activity when you wake up. There are a few destructive things these critters do that you'll likely notice. Join us today as we look at cool facts about these pesky pests and share some helpful tips to keep them away from your Rhode Island property. If you're currently dealing with an opossum infestation in your attic, garage, or storage shed, jump to our contact page for wildlife pest control in Rhode Island. Our experienced wildlife management professionals are happy to help you sort things out. We are your wildlife management experts. 

What Kind Of Foods Are Opossums Looking For?

When opossums explore your property at night, one thing they want to find most is food. They are omnivores that feed mostly on fruit, fish, birds, and insects. Do you have fruit trees? They'll definitely eat the fruit that falls to the ground. Do you have berry bushes? They'll pluck the berries off your bushes using their complex hands and their opposable thumbs. Do you have a garden? They're sure to find some veggies that will meet their needs. But they're not limited to natural food sources. Here are a few things they eat that you should guard.

  • While opossums aren't prone to knocking trash over or removing lids, they will readily eat from trash receptacles that raccoons knock over. They don't have an issue with food that is past its due date.

  • Opossums get into compost piles and compost bins to find food options. They are definitely not picky.

  • A pet dish with some dog or cat food is sure to get targeted by an opossum.

  • Do you have chickens? Opossums can present an issue as they have a penchant for eating poultry.

A yard with food options will attract the attention of opossums in Rhode Island. Removing food options and getting rid of smells that alert opossums to the potential for a meal, are the first steps in keeping them off your property. We'll get into more detail on this in a moment.     

The Dangers Opossums Can Bring To Your Yard

It is not good to have animals on your Rhode Island property, and opossums are no exception. There are several ways these critters can present a danger. There are also some surprising ways they don't present a threat.

Diseases: You might think that an opossum would make a good host for rabies, but they rarely contract the disease. Unfortunately, they're linked to other common wildlife diseases, such as tuberculosis, leptospirosis, and tularemia. 

Bacteria: Many animals spread salmonella, E. coli, and other harmful bacteria. Opossums may do this if they commonly get into trash or compost to find meals. But, typically, opossums are fairly clean animals. They groom themselves quite a bit.

Parasites: All furry animals carry ticks and fleas, and these pests are known to spread diseases. Ticks are linked to Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, meat allergy, ehrlichiosis, and many others. Fleas are linked to Murine typhus, babesiosis, plague, and more.

Damage: Opossums can damage plants and property. They also get into attics, garages, sheds, barns, and other outbuildings. When these get inside, they may construct messy nests and soil areas with their waste.

You may have noticed that we didn't put "bite hazard" on our list. The reason for this is quite interesting and deserves its own section.     

What To Do If There Is An Opossum Outside My Home

While sometimes scary animals because they bear their teeth and hiss, opossums are mostly docile. If you see an opossum in your yard, you don't have too much to worry about as they aren't likely to attack unless cornered or threatened—even then, they're more likely to pass out. Opossums have an unusual defensive behavior: They play dead. You might call it playing possum. 

The act of playing dead is more than you might expect. The opossum actually loses consciousness. It can be out for up to four hours! It also releases an unpleasant smell, which helps to outsmart predators that would eat them. When a predator finds an opossum lying on the ground surrounded by that bad aroma, it thinks it is rotten carrion and may pass on the meal. So, as you can see, opossums aren't as much of a threat as you might think. In fact, they offer some benefits.

What benefit do opossums offer? They hunt poisonous snakes and eat them. They can do this because they are not impacted by the neurotoxins in snake venom. While there are no venomous snake populations in Rhode Island, it is nice to have an animal around that likes to eat snakes. 

Unfortunately, there are downsides to having any wild animals frequenting your yard. As we pointed out, they can get into things they shouldn't, such as your trash, garden, structures, and voids underneath structures. They can transmit certain diseases and spread ticks and fleas around your property. It is best to take steps to prevent opossums from being in your yard. They can do their snake hunting along the border of your yard and beyond. 

Long before you need professional wildlife pest control, there are ways to deter these and other animals from spending too much time on your property and keep them from getting into places they shouldn't. Here's what you should do if you detect an opossum in your yard.

  • Keep your trash in covered receptacles.

  • Make sure you don't overfill your trash receptacles so that the lid doesn't fit securely on top.

  • Secure your trash receptacles so that they aren't easily knocked over.

  • Get animal-proof lids if you have trouble with animals getting into your trash. 

  • Get your trash to the curb weekly if you have service, or remove trash from your property weekly if you don't. 

  • Clean any receptacles that start to have an odor that could attract opossums.

  • Properly mix your compost. Opossums have a powerful sense of smell. They can pick up the smell of decomposing matter from a distance. Properly mixed compost has an earthy smell that doesn't remind opossums of food.

  • Do you have fruit or nut-bearing trees? Pick up fruits and nuts routinely and store them in a sealed bin away from your exterior.

  • Construct fences around any gardens to keep opossums out. Make sure your fencing is at least four feet high. 

  • Refrain from feeding your pets outside or pick pet food up before nightfall.

  • Keep your chickens securely in a pen if you have chickens. 

  • Use hardware cloth to keep opossums from getting underneath your deck, patio, or porch. Install the material at least a foot into the ground to deter opossums from tunneling underneath.

  • Trim branches away from your roof. Opossums are great climbers and can access your home easily if you have branches that hang over your roofline.

  • Trim your bushes and landscaping to remove hiding places opossums can use.

  • Install motion-sensitive sprinklers or lights. These can spook opossums initially. If opossums don't have a reason to keep attempting to explore your yard (such as a food source), an initial scare could cause them to go elsewhere and not eventually get used to these deterrents.

  • Clean your gutters and fix any spots in your gutter system where there are breaks. What does this do? It prevents rainwater from leaking over the sides or running out of a broken spot and soaking your perimeter soil. Oversaturation of the ground next to your home can cause puddles that sit for days after it rains. These become watering holes for opossums and other animals.

  • Pick up yard clutter. Any objects in your yard that can capture rainwater will provide a water bowl for opossums. Some examples are a toy dump truck, kiddie pool, frisbee, tarp, a seat on a lawn mower, and a plastic pail.  

There are more prevention tips we could share, but these lay the groundwork for how you can manage opossums and other wildlife pests that may enter your yard. The secret is food, water, and harborage control. If animals don't find what they're looking for in your yard, they'll likely move to the next.      

Total Nuisance Wildlife Control In Rhode Island 

When opossums, or any wild animals, present a problem in your yard, remember that Big Blue Bug Solutions offer expert wildlife trapping and pest control services in Rhode Island. Our experienced and highly-trained technicians can inspect your property, evaluate your infestation, and develop a strategy of baiting, trapping, and humane removal. When it comes to nuisance wildlife removal, we're the ones to call. Animal control handles issues involving domesticated pets or wild animals that present an immediate danger, such as a bear, coyote, or bobcat. Contact us for nuisance opossums. We'll help you get those pests out and guide you in ways to keep them out. Reach out to us for service. We look forward to helping.

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