How to Get Rid of Opossums in Your Yard

Opossum climbed on a fence

Opossums in your yard making you want to play dead? These safe, humane tips on how to get rid of opossums will bring you back to life. If these nocturnal scavengers are becoming too comfortable in your space, you’ll need to make things less hospitable. Let’s take a closer look at how to safely and ethically discourage opossums from visiting the yard. 

What Are Opossums?

Opossums are nocturnal marsupials that scavenge for food, including insects, plants, and small mammals. These creatures perform an essential ecological role as scavengers. Opossums have hairless tails like rodents and “play dead” as a defense mechanism when confronted by predators.

Not to be confused with possums (Australian herbivores with bushy tails), opossums are endemic to the U.S., meaning the species is native to the area. Opossums have white faces and gray bodies. These animals are about the size of a cat and easily climb trees thanks to their opposable thumbs and a prehensile tail.

How to Get Rid of Opossums in Your Yard

Eliminate Food Sources

Opossum eating cat food
frankieleon | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Opossums are scavengers, meaning they’ll take whatever they can get for food. Your garbage cans wafting red curry and tacos al carbon are like a siren’s call to scavengers. 

Here are some tips for dissuading scavengers.

  • Trash bins: Get your trash under control. Rinse food residue from your garbage cans with a hose, and close your trash can lids when not in use.
  • Pet food: Pick up your pet’s food. Having an outdoor pet like a cat or dog is great, but unless you are ready to add an opossum to the family Christmas card, avoid leaving out dog and cat food.
  • Bird feeders: Opossums even eat birdseed. So keep your bird feeders off the ground and inaccessible to scavengers.
  • Fruit trees: If you have fruit trees on your property, pick up any fruit that has fallen; otherwise, opossums, deer, raccoons, and other wildlife will frequent your property. 

Disrupt their habitat

Foraging oppossum in the night
Photo Credit: Unsplash

You rarely find scavengers on a manicured lawn with no hiding places. Wildlife won’t understand they are on private property if your yard has stacks of wood, unkempt bushes, and brush piles.

To clear up the misunderstanding, clear your yard of debris, declutter your storage shed, and cover that woodpile with a tarp. 

Cleaning up your yard not only makes it look nice but also makes your space less inviting to unwanted wildlife  

Spray away

Set of automatic sprinklers watering fresh grass
Aqua Mechanical | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Motion-activated sprinklers are another humane way to deter opossums from overstaying their welcome. Opossums are famous for playing dead when threatened, so this startling yet non-threatening solution keeps them at bay.

Bright lights, big opossum

Solar light bulbs in the garden
Timo Newton-Syms | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Speaking of motion-activated deterrents, a motion-detecting light can help ward off nocturnal scavengers like opossums. As nocturnal creatures, lights at night indicate a human presence and dangerous exposure. These marsupials have a great memory, so it shouldn’t be long before they get the hint that they aren’t welcome. Solar lights are an excellent option for eco-friendly surveillance.

Exclusion

Photo Credit: PxHere

If your opossum problem persists, you can erect a fence. Opossums are skilled climbers, so choose a fence over four feet. Adding an overhang to your fence can ensure your perimeter is secure. 

Place wire mesh over your crawl spaces to keep nesting opossums out of your home. 

Trim trees back from your home and check your attic for animal droppings. Poultry wire provides a protective barrier between your domain and nesting animals like opossums, squirrels, and raccoons.

Trap and release

Texas opossum hole with animal in trap for relocation
Jjjerry14 | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Trapping and releasing is a reasonable last resort to DIY pest control. Live traps can be purchased on Amazon and baited with peanut butter, expired meat, or fruit.

Set traps in the shade near where you notice opossum activity, add a weight on top of the trap to prevent tampering and check it twice daily.

Once the animal is in the trap, cover the trap with a blanket to calm the animal. 

Finally, release the animal in a safe environment about twenty miles from your property.

Always be careful when handling wild animals. Wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) such as gloves, long pants and sleeves, and close-toed shoes is strongly advised. Opossums rarely carry rabies but can carry leptospirosis, tularemia, and relapsing fever. Exhibit extreme care, or call your local animal control department.

When to call a professional

If the suggestions above haven’t worked for you, or you have a whole opossum family visiting, it may be time to call in a pest management professional.

Put a stop to your opossum problem and connect with a pest control service provider near you. 
Need help with those unkempt shrubs, debris piles, and tall grass? Let a lawn care professional tidy up the lawn so that opossums don’t mistake it for a hiding place.

Main Photo Credit: Unsplash

Caleb Leonard

Caleb Leonard is a freelance writer and marketing professional. A graduate of the University of North Texas, his interests include gardening, podcasts, and studying Spanish.