Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Handling
Signs of damage by opossums often are confused with those of skunks or raccoons. A correctly identified track of a hind foot is definitive.
Damage to Structures
Opossums may enter trailer houses and climb into insulation under the floor. They often are encountered moving about the ductwork of mobile homes. They commonly enter living quarters through large gaps around pipes and drains under sinks. Opossums are not destructive or strong, so typically they enter areas that already have an opening. In contrast, raccoons often create openings.
Damage to Livestock and Pets
Opossums generally avoid pets and livestock. Injuries may result if domestic animals approach opossums. Opossums prey on chickens, ducks, pigeons, and eggs of wild quail and turkeys.
Damage to Landscapes
Opossums consume produce from gardens and fruit trees, and feed in compost piles.
Health and Safety Concerns
Opossums present a variety of concerns for the safety and health of humans. They often harbor parasites such as fleas and ticks, and are more resistant to rabies than any other mammal, though they are not immune. Opossums are definitive hosts for the microorganism that causes Equine Protozoan Myeloencephalitis (EPM), which kills horses. The protozoan is shed in feces, so an opossum that is denning or feeding in stables may contaminate feed and water used for horses.
Individual opossums may be a nuisance near homes where they get into garbage, bird feeders, and pet food, or where they enter structures. Opossums may appear sick or injured because they do not always move when approached. When frightened, opossums often just “play dead,” hunker down, or bare their teeth in a manner that is menacing. In these circumstances, remove people and pets from the area and give the opossum time to move on. If the opossum does not leave within 24 hours, assume it is sick or injured and remove it. Confirm that no person or animal came in contact with the opossum.