General Opossum Facts
Opossums can wreak havoc on your garden and sod. These rat-tailed mammals may hit even closer to home by causing damage to your house as they try to gain entry.
Opossums are North America’s only marsupial, which means that opossum babies live in their mother’s pouch. Opossums are white or gray with long, pointed faces, and bodies about the size of a house cat. Opossums’ 50 teeth number more than any other North American mammal, and their canine fangs are very visible.
When someone refers to the act of “playing possum,” he or she is referring to the opossum’s defense mechanism of acting like it’s dead when it is really only frightened, in hopes that the predator will get bored and go away.
Opossums will raid garbage cans in search of food. In cities and suburban areas, a chimney, attic, wall void or crawlspace may serve as a comfy substitute for a hollow tree as an opossum den site. At this point especially, the opossum control experts at United Wildlife Control need to be called for safe and humane removal of the opossums.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q-1. WHERE DO OPOSSUMS LIVE?
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A. Though opossums (didelphis virginiana) are usually found in areas near streams and swamps, they also live in many regions of eastern, central and west-coast United States. Opossums naturally make dens in anything from tree cavities to brush piles. Opossums are also very opportunistic and will make a home in another animal’s abandoned burrow.
Opossums usually live solitary lives, but they will group together for food or shelter needs. They typically stay within a home range of 10 to 50 acres.
Q-2. I HAVE AN OPOSSUM IN MY HOUSE, WALL, GARAGE, CRAWLSPACE OR ATTIC. WHY IS AN OPOSSUM IN MY HOUSE?
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A. It’s easy to assume that opossums only live in the wild, but this is untrue. Opossums will camp out in your parked RV, under decks and patios, in new or abandoned cars, and anywhere inside your home, garage or children’s playhouse.
As humans build their homes and businesses closer and closer to natural opossum habitat, opossums will take up residence in manmade living spaces. These locations are warm and often surrounded by food sources for both male and female opossums, young and old. Female opossums, in particular, enjoy the safety of human areas. They must protect their babies from predators. Attics, chimneys and crawlspaces are hot spots in your home where opossums seek shelter. Some mother opossums go so far as to tuck their opossum babies down into wall cavities. If a male opossum enters your home when a female opossum is already living there, you will surely hear the sounds of mating or fighting, or both.
Q-3. WHEN ARE OPOSSUMS ACTIVE?
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A. Opossums are nocturnal, so you won’t see or hear much from them during the day. An opossum in your home may make thumping noises as it heads out for dinner at about 10 p.m. You may hear the opossum again when it returns at dawn.
Opossums don’t hibernate, but they do become inactive during harsh winter weather.
Opossum mating season usually runs from January to July and each female will produce about seven opossum babies, with two to three litters per year. Opossum babies, about the size of a quarter, live in the opossum mom’s pouch after her two-week pregnancy. For about two months, the opossum babies stay in the pouch. After weaning, the opossum babies will play, screech and raise a ruckus at night while their mother is out.
As the young grow more independent they pose a greater risk if they have grown accustomed to your home, simply because there are more opossums that can cause more damage.
Opossums usually live for about seven years in the wild, and if they find a comfortable place in your attic, walls or crawlspace, they will keep returning over those years unless you call United Wildlife’s opossum trappers to remove them and keep them out.
Q-4. WHAT FOODS DO OPOSSUMS EAT?
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A. When an opossum is living in your attic, it may also be looking for food. Popular opossum food sources are trash cans and pet food containers. Opossums are omnivorous, eating both plants and animals. Fruits, grains and insects are some popular opossum foods.
Opossums will hunt down rats and squirrels that may already be living in the attic, and then feed on the rodent’s existing food supply. United Wildlife’s opossum pest control also receives complaints from residents whose fish in their ponds are being eaten by opossums. Opossums truly will eat just about anything, though they prefer meats to vegetables.
Q-5. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HIRE UNITED WILDLIFE CONTROL TO REMOVE AN OPOSSUM FROM MY ATTIC, WALLS OR GARAGE?
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A. Once an opossum gets cozy in your attic, walls or under the deck or porch, it can make a mess and cause a lot of damage that can cost thousands of dollars to fix. Opossums will return year after year, using your attic as a home base — they have no problem living alongside humans. The hole opossums use as entry will become a great place for leaks to form and a passageway for rodents, raccoons, birds and insects.
Opossums are not pleasant roommates. Adults are stocky and weigh about as much as a house cat, between eight and 14 pounds. Imagine the opossum noises from all the scratching, walking, mating, fighting, playing, hissing and the crying of their babies.
Q-6. I HAVE AN OPOSSUM IN MY ATTIC. HOW DID IT GET THERE?
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A. Opossums will get into any opening they can squeeze their heads through. Opossums can enter into a roof’s overhangs, shingles, gable vents and where two roofs meet. Opossums can even get into the attic through crevices in the chimney. Opossums are very opportunistic animals and will use any hole to enter, even if another animal has made it.
An opossum getting onto your roof is no trick, either. Opossums easily climb trees and other structures so they can get onto your roof and into your home or business. Opossum tails are unique, like a monkey’s, and allow them to balance and grasp, and opossums occasionally can hang from the tail, as well.
Q-7. I HAVE AN OPOSSUM IN MY CHIMNEY. WHY IS IT THERE?
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A. There have been many cases reported during the spring seasons where opossums live and sleep throughout the day in a chimney. At night, the opossums enter the home and raid the kitchen, leaving a mess in their wake. Not only do the human occupants have to clean up after this rampage, but don’t forget the disease and bugs the opossums invariably bring along.
In addition, what seems to be a safe trip to the fridge for a glass of milk may turn into a confrontation with a mother opossum protecting her babies. If it feels threatened by a human, an opossum may growl, hiss, bite, bare its teeth, screech and even leak a smelly green fluid from its anal glands.
Male opossums hide out in the chimney to brave the winter weather. Female opossums live in chimneys because they provide a good place to raise their babies. Opossums can even get into the attic through crevices in the chimney.
Even one opossum in your chimney can make a lot of opossum noise. They regularly hiss, screech and click. Opossum babies will squeal or chatter—this may be what the animal sound is in your chimney.
Q-8. I HAVE AN OPOSSUM IN MY ATTIC. WILL IT CAUSE ANY DAMAGE?
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A. An attic that has served as an opossum home may have shredded ductwork. Opossums may tunnel through the insulation, rendering it less effective. Opossums chewing on wires and tearing insulation off pipes is not uncommon. You may come home from vacation to find your home has flooded because of opossums chewing on water lines. This kind of opossum damage to your residence can pose a fire hazard, raise your utility bills and cause thousands of dollars in repairs.
All this opossum damage will affect the value of your property. It is difficult to sell a home that has an opossum infestation and actually, it’s required by law that you fix an opossum problem before you sell your home. Property value can decrease between five and ten percent due to an opossum infestation.
Opossums also go to the bathroom just like any other animal. Opossums can cause your insulation to become a trampled bed of opossum fecal matter and urine. Eventually, these bathroom smells can spread into your living area, causing a very unpleasant odor. You might get used to it, but your house guests, neighbors and prospective homebuyers will not.
Q-9. I HEARD OPOSSUMS CAN CARRY DISEASES. IS THAT TRUE?
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A. Opossum waste can carry roundworm, a parasite whose eggs can cause health problems in humans who inhale or ingest them. Roundworms can live in human intestines for up to two years and can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, lung problems and, in severe cases, they can block the intestines. Since attics are commonly used as storage areas, roundworm can be a real threat when items such as Christmas decorations and baby booster seats are brought into the home after having contact with opossum droppings.
Opossums can transmit murine typhus to humans through the fleas they may carry in their fur. An infected flea would have to bite a human and would then cause severe headaches, fever, rash and fatigue.
Rabies, an opossum virus, progressively paralyzes and can kill any mammal, including humans. Though humans should avoid contact with any opossums, if the animal seems especially fearless around humans or is very active during the day, it could be infected. Call United Wildlife immediately.
Q-10. DO CONENOSE BUGS AND OTHER INSECTS REALLY LIVE ON OPOSSUMS?
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A. Little critters can get a ride on an opossum’s back and the closer you are to an opossum, the more chance you have of coming into contact with mites, ticks, fleas, lice, conenose bugs and other nibbling insects.
Conenose bugs are bloodsucking parasites that can feed off humans. Bites from conenose bugs sometimes produce allergic reactions, which can be cause for concern in certain individuals. A bite may produce itchy welts or swelling of the tongue, larynx and trachea.
Several cases of mites biting humans indoors have been reported.
Ticks are very mobile and have been known to crawl down into buildings that opossums are living in, and travel great distances to attach themselves to people.
If an opossum brings fleas near your home, most likely the biting bug will hop onto your house pet’s back. Once inside, large flea populations can build up quickly. Fleas live on the outside of their hosts’ bodies and need to feed on blood in order to produce eggs.
An opossum bug living in your attic can become an infestation in your pantry or carpet in no time. One or two mites may stray from the opossum den and crawl along your kitchen table. But if the opossum abandons its den for any reason, the whole caboodle of opossum bugs will enter your home, looking for a new host. This is why it’s especially important to have our opossum control experts remove opossum nests and other garbage after all the opossums have been trapped.
Opossums are a liability for businesses and restaurants. Opossum diseases or opossum bugs may infect your employees, guests or food. There are documented cases of illnesses occurring in these situations, and the plaintiff successfully sues the owner of the business. Also, if you are an employer and your workers’ environment is being contaminated by opossums, you will see a drop in productivity due to illness.
Q-11. I HAVE AN OPOSSUM IN MY YARD. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
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A. Opossums are top on the list of wildlife that destroys vegetable gardens. Opossums will also throw garbage around from your cans in search of food. Opossums enjoy grubs, and will tear apart sod to find them. Even if the opossum hasn’t found a way into your home yet, but is acclimated to your area, it can do significant damage.
For an opossum making trouble outside your home, trapping is not the answer. There are simply too many opossums out there. United Wildlife opossum removal technicians can draw from their storehouse of information on how to deter an opossum from your crops, lawn and garbage, an action which may also prevent opossums in your attic in the future.
Q-12. WILL AN OPOSSUM HURT MY HOUSE PET?
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A. Because of opossum illnesses and bugs, an opossum lurking on your property can pose a danger to house pets. If Fido and an opossum engage in a battle, one of them will have to win. Opossums have been known to kill cats, and they will battle with a dog if it’s equal enough competition, too.
Q-13. I WANT TO LEARN HOW TO TRAP THE OPOSSUM MYSELF. IS THAT OK?
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A. We understand the desire to take care of an opossum problem yourself. It may be tempting to take matters into your own hands, but in the long run you could put yourself, your family and your home at risk of damage, distress and disease. Opossums have been known to attack humans, especially mother opossums in defense of their babies.
A homeowner may successfully trap and kill an adult opossum, only to smell the nasty odor of five opossum baby carcasses rotting in the wall. It can take between one and two years, depending on the size, for an opossum’s body to decompose and the odor to dissipate. Along with decomposing opossum bodies come maggots and other bugs, including fly larvae. United Wildlife opossum control has the proper safety gear to protect employees from airborne diseases found in opossum fecal matter, so that you don’t have to be exposed.
When an opossum is in the chimney, some homeowners try to smoke or burn out the opossum. Not only is this highly inhumane, but it’s impossible to know if the “smoke-job” has successfully gotten rid of all the opossums. United Wildlife’s opossum trappers have special cameras to make sure the opossums are out of a chimney after trapping techniques have been used.
Opossums very often fall down into walls and die. Retrieving the opossum’s body will be nearly impossible for a homeowner without doing some serious damage to the interior of your home. United Wildlife’s dead opossum removal can pinpoint where in the wall the opossum is, remove the dead opossum, and patch up the wall afterward at the owner’s request.
Q-14. HOW CAN UNITED WILDLIFE CONTROL HELP ME SOLVE MY OPOSSUM PROBLEM?
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A. United Wildlife’s specialty is the removal of opossums from attics, chimneys, walls and other hard-to-reach locations through special trapping techniques and use of fiber-optic and infrared cameras. Depending on city, county, federal and state law, the opossum will either be relocated or euthanized once it is taken away. No matter the course of action, the opossum will be treated in a humane manner.
United Wildlife’s opossum trappers use a variety of opossum live traps, kill traps, body-gripping traps and snaring, depending on the kind of opossum infestation and federal, county and state laws.
If an opossum has already died in your attic or other living space, we offer dead opossum removal services and can also help clear odors caused by decomposing opossums.
We’re professional opossum trappers who will travel any distance to get the opossums out. We also do professional phone and Internet coaching for those who live in remote areas, but who want to perform pest control for opossums by using digital pictures sent by e-mail. We can also ship traps and equipment to help you trap opossums yourself the right way. Either way, we will work with you to solve your opossum invasion. There is not an opossum problem that can’t be solved with United Wildlife’s professional opossum trapping service.
Q-15. WHAT ARE UNITED WILDLIFE’S PAYMENT OPTIONS FOR OPOSSUM REMOVAL?
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A. Call United Wildlife’s opossum trapping specialists and we’ll give you our rates. We charge incrementally per opossum, number of service calls and time spent on the project. Prices will vary depending on the severity of the opossum problem. Depending on the amount of opossums and where they are living, you may be able to assist us with the opossum problem as we are dealing with it. There is no free government service that takes care of opossum control. The good news is, insurance companies will often pay for some, if not all, of the costs incurred to get rid of opossums.
United Wildlife opossum experts accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express. We also take purchase orders and cash.
Q-16. WHAT SHOULD I DO AFTER UNITED WILDLIFE REMOVES THE OPOSSUM?
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A. After our opossum removal experts have taken care of the opossum problem, it is best to contain or properly secure any food sources the opossums may have been enjoying such as garbage cans, dumpsters, bird feeders and pet food dishes. Don’t entice other opossums to return. We will also help you make sure the building is in proper repair to deter any future rat-tailed friends from entering. United Wildlife’s opossum trappers can install special barriers including slick fences to keep opossums from your property and can assist you in repairs to your home at the point where the opossums entered.
Cleaning up opossum droppings and urine is crucial in the opossum prevention process. If you leave any opossum waste behind, it will entice other opossums to come make a home in your attic or crawlspace, and the mess will provide a breeding ground for opossum diseases and opossum bugs. United Wildlife opossum cleanup can help with attic decontamination and opossum odor control needs.
A great way to prevent an opossum problem is to eradicate any rodent, bird and insect infestations you may have. United Wildlife’s rodent, bird and insect extermination experts can help you install a control system to keep mice, birds or insects away so that opossums will not be tempted by them as a food source.
Do remember that opossums are wild and unpredictable. Though we have years of experience in the opossum removal field, a particular animal situation may require that we return more than once to get the job done right and to prevent opossums from entering your residential or commercial building in the future.
Our mission at United Wildlife opossum control is to help identify your opossum pest damage. We will remove the existing opossum pest and develop a custom wildlife solution to stop or control the opossum problem from occurring again.
In the end, if you’re happy with our experienced, professional opossum trappers, any referrals are always appreciated.