Many people find possums scary, even threatening—and that’s perfectly understandable. After all, possums (also known as “opossums”) have those frightening-looking teeth that they’re all too happy to bare when surprised in their natural habitat—which might, unfortunately, include your backyard. They also use an intimidating hissing sound to scare off potential predators. But do these small animals deserve their bad reputation?
Do Possums Carry Rabies?
Many people have only limited knowledge about them, and might wonder: Do possums carry rabies? Do possums attack? Do they bite humans? To answer these questions, let’s learn a little more about this rather misunderstood creature.
Facts About Possums
Possums are smallish animals, about the size of a cat, with long tails, pointy faces and grayish-white fur. They are marsupials—animals, like kangaroos, that carry their young in a pouch on the mother’s belly. And while possums are often seen as pests, the truth is, they’re quiet animals that usually don’t pose a threat to humans, pets or property. In fact, one could even view possums as a helpful animal, since they “clean up” (meaning consume) everything from insects to rotten fruit that has fallen from trees and trash left behind by marauding raccoons.
The fact that possums seem scary is no coincidence. They want you to back away in fear because they’re scared of you! Yes, when possums bare their teeth and make that awful hissing sound, they’re hoping you’ll fall for their frightening display and leave them alone. If their bluffing doesn’t work, they’re likely to switch to Plan B—playing dead (hence the phrase “playing possum”).
Do Possums Attack or Bite Humans?
While encountering a possum in your yard can be quite startling, possums are not aggressive by nature. Since they’re also rather slow-moving, other animals are far more likely to be a threat to them than vice versa. That’s why possums developed their self-protective strategies of pretended aggression and playing dead in the face of danger.
Furthermore, if you’re dealing with overturned garbage cans or dug-up garden beds, possums are usually not the culprit. It’s more likely that raccoons or neighborhood dogs got into your trash, and while possums do eat grubs and other undesirable insects, they won’t typically destroy your yard.
Do Possums Carry Rabies or Other Diseases?
Possums are good at pretending to be a far bigger threat than they are, and sometimes people can mistake their tooth-baring, seemingly aggressive behavior as a sign of rabies. But the truth is that possums are actually unlikely to have rabies. With a strong immune system and a body temperature that is significantly lower than that of other mammals, they simply aren’t good rabies hosts.
That being said, possums can be carriers of several other diseases, including tuberculosis, spotted fever and toxoplasmosis. They may also be infested with fleas or ticks that can be disease-carrying themselves, and which might find ways to transfer from their possum hosts to your pets or even your home.
Ways to Possum-Proof Your Yard
Whether possums are aggressive and disease-ridden or not, it’s perfectly reasonable not to want them to take up residence in your yard, under your porch or anyplace else around your living space. Here are some ways to keep possums away from your home and property:
- Don’t leave out pet food overnight, as it might attract hungry possum families (along with raccoons and other animals).
- Cover or repair any holes that would allow access to beneath your deck, porch or patio, so pregnant or nesting possum mamas won’t be able to build a den. Just be sure to make sure there aren’t any babies in the den when you’re closing off access! Possums almost always bring their babies with them when they leave the den, but it’s better to make sure than to separate a mother from her young.
- Make sure your garbage cans have tight-fitting lids to keep out raccoons along with dogs, possums and other unwanted scavengers.
- Clear fallen fruit promptly. If you have fruit trees on your property and you don’t want possums eating the fruit that falls and rots on the ground, clear it as soon as possible.
If a possum happens to get into your home, try not to be afraid. Remember, they aren’t aggressive. But while some brave souls might choose to encourage the possum to head back outside by shooing them toward an open door with a broom, it’s probably a better idea simply to call a wildlife removal expert and have the problem resolved professionally.
ABC Can Help Remove Wildlife From Your Property
Although possums may be generally non-aggressive and not a huge threat to humans, they can certainly be an unwanted nuisance, and can even cause damage to your property if they burrow under a porch or shed to make a den. If this happens to you, don’t worry — ABC can help! We’re experts in wildlife removal, and we’ll take care of any unwanted animal visitors to your home as promptly as possible.