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Do Possums Attack? Your Questions Answered

A possum bearing its teeth as if it was going to attack

Possums are undeniably odd-looking animals, especially when they’re feeling threatened. When they sense danger, their first response is often to hiss and bare their teeth. But, do possums attack? Consider this as a clue: When hissing and showing off that triangular-shaped mouth full of pointy little teeth doesn’t scare off a potential predator, the possum’s next move is the one responsible for the common phrase, “playing possum.” That’s right—when faced with danger, this creature rolls over, goes limp, closes its eyes and pretends to be lifeless. Not exactly the behavior of an aggressive, menacing attacker.

Possums are not known to attack. In fact, they are known to be quite gentle and docile, though pet owners do report dogs or cats getting into fights with possums. Like any wild animal, possums do their best to avoid being cornered. They are far more likely to flee or play possum than to use any more aggressive tactic to protect themselves. Furthermore, possums are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night, which lowers the chances that children or household pets will come into direct contact with them. That said, kids should be taught not to approach or antagonize any wild animal, including possums.

Adult possums are about the size of a housecat, with grayish-white fur on their bodies, white fur on their faces and dark-gray or black fur on their ears. They have pointed snouts tipped with little pink noses, and long, scaly tails that are not unlike rats’ tails. Most notably, possums are marsupials, which means they are mammals that carry their young inside a pouch of skin on their bellies. Possums are actually the only marsupial found in all of North America.

Since possums are unlikely to attack a human, dog or cat, why do so many people abhor these animals? Some people actually consider possums to be beneficial, since they eat garden pests like slugs, snails and mice, and they have also been known to “clean up” after other, messier animals like raccoons that get into people’s garbage and strew it around.

Although having a possum passing through your yard one evening may not be the end of the world, real issues can present themselves when a possum decides to live on your property. For one, possums are capable of spreading a variety of diseases, including leptospirosis and tularemia. Also, possums are often infested with other smaller pests, such as fleas and mites, so a possum problem can quickly escalate into other pest problems. One positive note is that possums aren’t typically carriers of rabies because of their low average body temperature. If you’re seeing a possum out during the day, it’s likely just scavenging for food or a new place to live.

Furthermore, if you frighten a possum and it plays dead, it also mimics the scent of a dead animal and can release the smell of decay through its anal glands. Keep in mind, possums can play dead for up to four hours. And, while possums can eat nuisance insects in your garden, they may also eat the fruits of your labor and may dig up your lawn at night while on the search for grubs.

To prevent a possum or possum family from living on your property, close off gaps and openings to these spaces with wooden deck skirting, chicken wire or wire mesh—first, of course, making sure that you aren’t trapping any animals inside! If you believe there is a possum living somewhere on your property, your best bet is to contact a wildlife control specialist who can properly identify the animal, remove it safely and recommend ways to keep pests away in the future, so they won’t bother you or any other member of your household.

While it is unnerving to have a possum living somewhere in your yard, it can be even more unnerving when a possum makes its way into your home. Keep reading to learn how possums got into your house and what you can do to get rid of them.

a white house

How Do Possums Get Into Your House?

Possums can get into your home in a variety of ways. These animals are excellent climbers and can climb from a tree branch onto your roof if you don’t keep your branches trimmed back. Whether on your roof or on the ground, possums can enter your home through holes in your siding, foundation, roof and even through dryer vents and other openings along your outer walls. From there, these creatures can create nests in your attic or crawl spaces.

Fortunately, possums pretty rarely get into people’s living spaces, and they almost never venture into a part of the home that is a high-use area. They are far more likely to avoid human activity altogether, and find shelter someplace well away from the hubbub of daily human life.

Similarly to where skunks live, possums typically shelter in holes in tree trunks or in other animals’ abandoned burrows, and they prefer to do so near a water source, such as a creek or stream. They have also been known to build nests in piles of logs or brush. When they do venture into someone’s home in search of shelter, it’s usually in an out-of-the-way spot such as underneath a porch or outdoor deck, or inside a garage, attic or storage shed. They might also build a den on someone’s property much as they would in the wild, inside a hollow log or tree trunk, or in a pile of wood or brush.

People with fruit trees or compost bins are more likely to attract possums to their property since these omnivorous animals eat fruit and nuts along with plants, insects, frogs, snakes, snails, mice and rats. Of course, if you have possums living somewhere on your property, you may never see the animals themselves, since they are mostly active at night. You might, however, find their den.

Possums tend to build nests out of found materials like sticks, leaves and pine needles. Many people think their nests look like little more than messy piles of sticks. To build their nests, possums curl their strong tails around bundles of nesting materials to hold and carry them back to the den site. Many times, possums will use a particular den for just a short time before moving on to build a new one.

If you think you’ve discovered a possum den, it’s smart to contact a wildlife control specialist to confirm whether it is, indeed, the den of a possum, or if it might actually be some other type of nuisance wild animal. Wildlife control specialists can remove the animal, close off entry points and advise you on other ways to deter pests of all varieties from taking up residence in or near your home.

A possum on a tree outside of someones home, leading them to wonder how to get rid of possums

How To Get Rid of Possums

The quickest and most efficient way is to deal with a possum problem is to call in a professional, since wildlife removal is not a good project for a homeowner. Better still is simply to prevent these wild animals from coming on to your property in the first place. An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure, and this definitely applies to deterring possums from feeding or building dens on your property versus removing them once they’ve moved in.

Deterring possums mainly consists of general upkeep of your home, yard and any other structures you may have on your property. In many cases, homes, garages, storage sheds and other buildings that become possum den sites are unused, abandoned or in disrepair. If there is a hole in the ceiling of a storage shed or garage, for example, a possum family might view this as a good spot to build a nest and spend a few days. This is one good reason to keep all areas of your property in good working condition, and to fix anything that is broken, even in a backyard shed or other structure. Closing off holes, gaps and other entry points protects your property from all manner of opportunistic pests and wildlife, including possums. Also, trimming back tree branches will keep a variety of creatures, such as possums and raccoons, off your roof.

Some regular yard upkeep will also help deter possums from visiting your property. If you have trees that bear fruits or nuts, keep the fallen fruit and nuts picked up so they don’t attract animals like possums, raccoons and rats. Have dead trees, fallen logs or branches hauled off or cut down into firewood, and store the firewood in a neat pile that is elevated off the ground if possible (and well away from fences and other wooden structures, to avoid developing a termite problem!). Similarly, keep any brush on your property neatly trimmed so that possums won’t be tempted to use thick brush as a den site.

Other steps to keep possums away include keeping garbage bins tightly sealed and keeping compost in a bin as well, rather than in an open area that would be easily accessed by animals. If possums take up residence in your home or some other area of your property and you aren’t sure what attracted them or how they got in, it’s helpful to reach out to a wildlife control professional who can use their expertise and experience to trap and remove these pests. Again, this isn’t a good project to tackle on your own. Many states actually have restrictions in place regarding the trapping and removal of possums. This is a job that is best left to professionals who have the know-how needed to get the job done thoroughly, quickly and correctly.

ABC Can Remove Unwelcome Visitors From Your Property

Although possums rarely attack, these aren’t creatures you want living on your property. For effective wildlife removal, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our professionals are highly trained and will be able to trap and remove any unwanted creatures on your property. We can also provide you with ongoing pest control to reduce the chances of any future pest problems.

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