Opossum Damage Prevention and Control Methods

Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Resources

Overview of Damage Prevention and Control Methods 

Habitat Modification 

  • Remove pet food, fruits, and other foods  
  • Remove or modify bird feeders 
  • Cover trash cans with lockable lids 
  • Secure compost piles in bins 

Exclusion 

  • Install sunken perimeter fences around crawl spaces 
  • Cover openings with hardware cloth 
  • Electric fences or porcupine wire to prevent climbing  
  • 1-way doors (6- x 6-inch) to remove opossums from structures 

Frightening 

  • Not practical 

Repellents 

  • None registered 

Toxicants 

  • None registered 

Shooting 

  • .22-caliber rifle or pistol 
  • Shotgun- 12-gauge with No. 6 shot 

Trapping 

  • Cage traps (10 x 12 x 32-inch single door, 7 x 7 x 24-inch double-door) 
  • Body-gripping traps (Nos. 160 or 220) 
  • Foothold traps (Nos. 1 or 1½ padded jaw trap) 
  • Species-specific traps  

Other Control Methods 

  • Direct removal  
  • Dogs may deter opossums 

Damage Prevention and Control Methods 

Opossums can be managed whenever damage is occurring. No data are available for economic damage caused by opossums in the US.  

Habitat Modification 

Remove cover and brush piles, and plug burrows to reduce the frequency of visits by opossums. Pick up fruit that has fallen from trees or shrubs, and remove dishes of pet food that are outside. Remove or modify bird feeders to prevent food from falling to the ground. Cover trash and garbage bins, and secure compost piles in containers with locking lids to prevent opossums from gaining access. 

Exclusion 

Secure crawl spaces, porches, and decks with 1- x ½-inch galvanized hardware cloth. Bury the mesh at least 2 inches belowground and create a 12- to 18-inch skirt under the soil to discourage digging. Some sources suggest burying the mesh at 12 to 24 inches with a 12-inch perpendicular skirt, but the greater depth is not necessary to exclude opossums. Consult the local utility company before initiating any digging. If aesthetics are a concern, consider painting the mesh with flat-black paint and installing lattice to reduce the visibility of the fence.  

Prevent opossums from entering structures by closing doors to cages and pens that house poultry. Opossums can be prevented from climbing over wire mesh fences by installing a tightly stretched electric wire near the top of the fence 3 inches out from the mesh (Figure 4) or by installing strips of stainless steel porcupine wire. Securely fasten lids of garbage cans. Use bins to secure compost in which food scraps are deposited. 

Opossums also can be excluded from structures with 1-way doors. Secure all openings to the structure and install a 1-way door (6 x 6 x 10 inches). Prop the door partially open with crumpled newspaper and leave a gap so the opossum can see out.   

Figure 4. A fence with a hot wire near the top can be effective against mammals that climb. Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel.

Frightening Devices 

No frightening devices are effective for the control of opossums. 

Repellents 

No repellents are registered for the control of opossums. 

Toxicants 

No toxicants are registered for the control of opossums. 

Shooting 

The legality of shooting nuisance opossums varies by state. Check with local and state authorities for regulations. A rifle of almost any caliber (.22-caliber is most common) or a shotgun loaded with No. 6 shot or larger will kill opossums. If it is legal, use a light to look for opossums after dark. If an opossum is not alarmed, it usually will pause in the light long enough to allow for an easy shot. Follow all safety guidelines when shooting. 

Trapping 

Opossums easily are caught in traps. Place traps where opossums have been seen. For bait, use foods that attracted opossums to the site (e.g., pet food or fruit). Use fruit or sweet baits instead of baits containing fat to reduce the chance of catching cats and dogs. Skunks and raccoons also are attracted to sweet baits.  

Cage Traps 

Single-door cage or box traps should be 10 x 12 x 32 inches. Double-door traps should be 7 x 7 x 24 inches. Tube-style box traps made from round PVC pipe also are effective in capturing opossums. Use tubes that are 6 or 8 inches in diameter and 24 inches long. 

Body-gripping Traps 

Medium-sized body-gripping traps (Nos. 160 or 220) can be set to catch and kill opossums.  

Place bait behind the trap so that the animal must pass through the trap to get it. To reduce the chance of catching pets, set the trap on a running pole (Figure 5). 

Figure 5. Running pole set. Image by PCWD 

Foothold Traps 

A variety of foothold traps are effective for capturing opossums including Nos. 1 and 1½ (regular, laminated, or padded-jaw, such as the Softcatch™). Set traps along fences or trails. Opossums are not strong, but foothold traps should be anchored securely in case a non-target animal is captured. Dirt-hole or cubby sets are effective (Figure 6).  

Figure 6. Dirt-hole set. Image by PCWD. 

A dirt-hole set should be about 3 inches in diameter and 8 inches deep and extend into the earth at a 45o angle. Set the trap at the entrance of the hole. A cubby is a small enclosure made of rocks, logs, or a box. The trap is set at the entrance of the cubby. The dirt-hole and cubby positions the animal so that it will place its foot on the trap.  

Species-Specific Traps 

Though used more commonly for trapping raccoons, species-specific traps, such as the EGG Trap™, are effective on opossums.  

Handling 

Relocation 

Relocation of opossums is appropriate for rescues. Release the opossum into cover away from roads and where humans live.  

Translocation 

If translocation of opossums is legal, transport them at least 5 miles away from the site of capture.  

Euthanasia 

Carbon dioxide gas is the most appropriate technique to euthanize opossums. Cervical dislocation also is common.  

Disposal 

Check your local and state regulations regarding disposal of carcasses.  

Other Control Methods 

Opossums are easy to corner in enclosed areas and can be captured with catch poles, cat-graspers or hand nets. Do not grasp an opossum by the tail. Hand-capture can be done by grasping the back of the neck and using the other hand to support the back. Opossums usually relax when they are captured. Dogs can be trained to locate opossums (Figure 7). Keep dogs outdoors to discourage opossums from visiting an area. 

Figure 7. Dogs may help locate opossums. Photo by Dave Schmidt.