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Opossum Control and Prevention

Possum Control    Prevention    Opossum History, Biology    Humane Live Traps

Prevention:  Keep Opossum From Becoming a Pest

As with any integrated pest management program (whether it be for mammals, birds, insects or spiders) prevention is the key to successful opossum problems.  Look at the entire picture: what does the pest eat, how does it reproduce, what are its nesting habits, foraging range and routine, etc..  Try to keep the pest from entering the area, make the area less comfortable or inviting for nesting, hiding, reproducing.
Ridding the area of possible foods is the first step in preventing a problem.  The opossum (most often pronounced "possum") is very opportunistic in its feeding habits with a wide variety of foods from which it will choose.  

Those looking for control of this marsupial need only to narrow down the list of possible opossum preferred foods to those that are found around the home or buildings in question.  In the wild, this animals diet could be quite different than others of its kind that have grown accustomed to man and live in close proximity to humans.
Of all the possible foods, household garbage and pet foods are usually what attract opossums to our urban homes.  [People in more remote areas have reported opossum problems with their poultry.  The animal has been known to tear through chicken wire to gain access to poultry, both adult and young.  More than once, we have heard of opossum damage to coops and death of fowl - and the birds were only killed, not eaten.]

A few prevention methods are basic common sense but are so important that they must be mentioned.
Household garbage and leftover pet food must be taken care of on a daily basis.  Make sure that all trash receptacles have functioning, tight fitting lids and that the receptacles are not easily tipped over.  If your neighbors do not take care of their household trash, the animal could very well nest on your property while foraging on nearby properties.
The same goes for leftover pet foods.  When feeding outdoor pets, animals (especially dogs and cats) always pick up leftover food by nightfall.  Cat food and dog food are favorites of opossums living close to humans.  And, as mentioned about household garbage, the pet foods left out after dusk often is not on your own property but instead is on your neighbor's property.

Besides taking care of garbage, leftover foods (those of pets and people) other sanitation measures should be taken.  A lawn that is overgrown or needs raking will invite opossums to hide or nest.  Avoid leaf build-up around the house and other buildings on your property.

If possible, encourage neighbors to do the same: take care of garbage cans, trash collection, keeping lawns mowed or bush-hogged, prevent leaf build-up and move compose piles away from dwellings, barns, etc.  Opossums not only eat almost anything within their reach but they also roam.

Possum Control

If, after taking all possible opossum prevention measures, you could still have a problem.  Nuisance wildlife control measures usually include fencing, repellents, poisoning, shooting or trapping.  In the case of nuisance opossums, live trapping is not only the most humane but also the most acceptable.  Fencing out this animal is very difficult and usually a waste of time.  Repellents can work but most customers complain that the repellent must be used continuously, which can mean investing a great deal of time and money - and the repellents sometimes just do not work.  Poisoning is not always humane or legal.  Small children, pets and non-targeted animals are at risk when poisons are used to control opossums.  Shooting nuisance wildlife is only legal in certain areas of the country; this varies for locales and for which animal is a pest.
Of all wildlife control measures that target opossums, using a humane live trap is the best way to rid your property of any opossum that becomes a pest.  For best results, use the correct size trap, bait the trap with an acceptable food bait and place the trap where animal feels comfortable feeding.  

Opossum Trap    Baiting Trap for Opossums    Dealing with Trapped Animal 

Opossum Trap 

The best size of trap to use is called a "cat trap" because it is most often used to control cats.  Using the wrong sized trap will most often result in failure.  If your trap is too large there is a good chance that its triggering mechanism is too stiff or tight, resulting in the targeted animal taking your bait from the trap without catching the pest.
Adult, well fed opossums have been captured with a raccoon trap but a very young opossum might not weigh enough to depress the trigger.  When this happens, the animal will gladly eat your food bait and walk out of the trap.

If you already own a raccoon trap, see if you can capture the opossum with your existing trap.  Failure to capture young animals that are pests or need to be relocated might be an indicator that you need to invest in a smaller trap.  The Safeguard Humane Cat Trap works best for this job.

Baiting Traps for Opossums

Although opossums will eat almost anything, they do have a weakness for canned pet food.  We have had best results with cheap, canned cat food.  [Another food that gets their attention is barbeque chicken.]
Place your bait behind the trap's trigger, not on the trigger.  If possible, anchor the trap to the ground to help stabilize the trap.  A curious animal (dog, raccoon or possum) sometimes shakes or paws at the sides of the trap before discovering the entrance.  These motions can trip the trap door, making it close before the animal has a chance to enter.
Trap placement is also important.  You want to place the trap in an area that is known to or suspected to be in the regular foraging path of the animal - without being to close to a house, dog pen or other area where sudden noises or movement might scare away the opossum.  Every situation has different variables but this example should help you locate your opossum trap correctly:
If, for example, the opossum is entering your property from the back of your property and its intended target is your cat food bowl located on your back porch, place your trap between the point where the opossum enters your property and the back porch.  To help prevent scaring away the animal that needs to be trapped, place the opossum trap away from the house.
To encourage the animal to enter the trap, you should leave a very small amount of your food bait close to the entrance.  Not only will this help the opossum find the correct end of the trap but will also help prevent the animal from trying to pull food from the wrong end of the trap - resulting in the door closing too soon.

Dealing with Trapped Animals

Once you have captured a opossum with a live trap, you have to decide what to do with the animal.  (Actually, this decision should be made before setting out trap for any animal.)  When possible and legal, we prefer to relocate captured wildlife to areas where they will not again become a pest and where they will blend in with the environment without harm.
Relocation is not always possible and (in some areas) can be illegal.  Check with your local county extension service for suggestions and any legal details you might need to know.  Placing a trapped animal in another area could not only be illegal but could also be dangerous to animals or the environment.
We have heard of some counties that request certain trapped animals be humanely put down rather than relocation.  Seek information in your area to help you make the safest, most rational and humane decision.  Well meaning people who do not wish to harm living things can sometimes cause more harm by placing a trapped animal in an area where the animal cannot defend itself, find food or is otherwise stressed unduly. 
An inappropriately placed animal can also cause an environmental imbalance by its mere presence.

To summarize, a trapped animal can be dealt with in two different ways:
1. Relocate to an area where it can thrive without harming its surroundings.
2. Put down in a humane way.
Laws pertaining to nuisance wildlife, trapping, shooting, releasing and relocation vary according to the state, county or municipality where you reside.  Base your decision on what is legal and humane.

Possum Control    Prevention    Opossum History, Biology    Humane Live Traps    Wildlife Control
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