Wildlife: Opossums

Are you experiencing an issue with wildlife in your area?  If you have an urgent concern, please get in touch with us right away.  If you are looking for more information, please click on one of the questions below to expand the content and find your answer.  If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at DFW Wildlife Coalition.

The rule of thumb is to rescue a baby opossum if it is less than 8 inches from nose to butt. Use a 6-inch dollar bill as a handy ruler. They are extremely vulnerable to predators. Often, they will fall off the mom while traveling. Mother opossums never return for the baby.

Typical size of baby opossum that needs immediate rescue.

If the baby opossum is:

  • longer than the dollar bill by two inches, appears to be healthy, has no injuries, has no visible parasites, is not attracting ants or flies, then the opossum does not need rescuing.
  • If you must chase an opossum to catch him and he is 8 inches long, he does not need to be rescued!
  • If the opossum is without a mother and appears to be thin and lethargic even though it is 8 inches or longer, please consult with the DFW Wildlife Coalition hotline or a local rehabilitator. Opossums are susceptible to flea anemia and the opossum you found might need a helping hand.

This video demonstrates how baby opossums can fall off the mother and she not be aware.

The opossum I found is pink and is only a few inches in length. What should I do?
Sadly there isn’t much you can do to help pink baby opossums. Pink baby opossums have a very low odds of surviving in a rehab center. To understand why you have to understand how an opossum’s life begins. An opossum is born after a 12 day gestation period. A newborn opossum is the size of a jellybean and will crawl into the pouch where it will then attach to the mother’s teats for 24/7 nourishment for the next two months. Inside the pouch they are kept a consistent temperature, as if in an incubator. Because it is impossible for a rehabilitator to match the perfect conditions found in a mother’s pouch, a baby opossum that is pink has low odds of surviving in a rehab center.

A video of baby opossums in the mother’s pouch.

Please reference our “Quick Tips” located in the upper right corner of our website for instructions on containing, transporting, providing life saving heat, and finding a wildlife rehabilitator.

Congratulations! Having an opossum in your backyard is the same as having a personal pest removal service. Opossums eat pests such as roaches, grubs, grasshoppers, and ticks, just to name a few. They also search out decaying fruit left on the ground, mice, rats, and dead animals. Most folks like the fact that opossums actively seek and kill all venomous snakes, except the coral snake. Best of all, their service is free!

Opossums are nomadic and will move along once their food source disappears. They have 50 sharp teeth and might appear menacing; however, they are inoffensive unless you are foolish enough to put your hand in their mouth. An opossum will climb a tree, get under a log or rock, or retreat slowly to avoid conflict.

If you have a dog, the dog will most likely be the aggressor and corner the opossum. In this situation, expect the opossum to show its 50 teeth, drool, and look terribly fierce. Don’t worry! This is all show. Cornered opossums that feel threatened often fall over and appear to be dead. When this happens they will excrete a green foul smelling fluid. This is defense tactic and is where the term “playing possum” originated. This coma-like state is an uncontrollable reflex as most animals will not eat an animal that smells like spoiled meat. You can help a comatose opossum survive by:

  • IMMEDIATELY PUT YOUR DOG IN THE HOUSE! If the opossum is injured, contact a wildlife rehabilitator or the DFW Wildlife Coalition hotline. If you know your dog did not make contact, leave your yard and give the opossum several minutes to a couple of hours to recover. Never assume the opossum is dead and bury or place in a trash bag, because it may indeed be alive. Be sure and look for babies when an opossum is comatose as they can fall out of the pouch and mom will not collect them once she revives. Contact the DFW Wildlife Coalition hotline with any questions or concerns.

Cats and opossums rarely, if ever tangle. UNLESS, it is a baby opossum/juvenile; then a cat is a threat. Wildlife that has been in a cat’s mouth MUST go to a rehabilitator.

Opossums are part of the natural world and are present whether you see them or not. They are nature’s pest control and provide a valuable service as they quietly eat pests that might call your yard home; however, if you are truly bothered by them and want to discourage their presence in your yard, know that:

  • Rabies in the opossum is very rare and considered negligible. They are not susceptible to distemper as our dogs and other wildlife.
  • If you want to discourage opossums, keep your trash secure, do not leave pet food out, limit bird feeding, frequently change the time of day you feed feral cats, and do not allow fruit to fall and decay on the ground. Evicting an opossum is the same as evicting a raccoon or a skunk. By removing any food sources, you will also remove the attraction that your yard presents.
  • Read FAQ: Ways to discourage wildlife in my yard.
  • REMOVE FOOD SOURCES is the primary way to discourage wildlife in your yard.
  • Water lawns during the day.
  • Landscape modification.
  • Maintenance of structures.  

Wildlife require the same basic three elements for existence as we do, food, water and shelter. Most urban wildlife is opportunistic and omnivorous, eating animal and/or plant; therefore, removal of those basic needs will discourage wildlife on your property.

  • DO NOT LEAVE PET FOOD OUTSIDE.  Place enough for your pet and remove any left after about 30-40 minutes. Consider feeding indoors so ants and flies don’t get in your pet’s food.
  • If you must feed a feral cat, regularly alter the time of day to discourage opportunistic feeding by raccoons and opossums.
  • Only put enough bird seed for the day you can enjoy your bird feeder.  You may not realize that a bird/squirrel feeder creates a mini eco-system that attracts and feeds an abundance of wildlife.  The discarded seed on the ground attracts prey species such as cottontails, mice, and rats. The prey eating the discarded seed attract opossums, raccoons, skunks, coyote, fox, bobcats.  Wildlife finds it easier to hunt the prey, when you are feeding them in your yard.
  • Remove fallen fruit, acorns and nuts from your yard.
  • Place trash out the morning of pick up.  Adding a cup of ammonia to your trash can will discourage rummaging.  
  • Avoid storing food of any kind such as bird or pet food, in containers in your yard, garage or shed.  Often rodents will get into this food and consequently their presence attracts the raccoons, opossums, skunks, etc.
  • Be aware of what you put on your compost.  If using table discards use bins that can be closed.  
  • Do not leave small pets outside unattended especially at night.

Remember what you may unintendedly provide for food may be an easier meal than hunting and catching a mouse or rat.

  • Because compost creates heat it often can attract wildlife in the winter as shelter.
  • Shelter for wildlife can be dense vegetation such as over grown grass, vines or shrubbery.
  • Wood piles, outdoor storage of building materials or debris
  • Check the construction of your home or out buildings for deterioration of wood, cracks, and holes that can allow access.  A rat can enter a dime size hole and a raccoon can get in a hole the size of your fist. Wildlife will enhance an existing hole until they can gain access.
  • Foundation maintenance is critical as areas of erosion can encourage an animal to dig under out buildings, decks or pier and beam foundations.  If you have foundation vents be sure they are secure. I recommend replacing screen covers with hardware cloth as raccoons will tear screen covers open.
  • Install and keep properly maintained a chimney cap to prevent raccoons, squirrels or chimney swifts from making a home.
  • Keep your fence in good repair
  • Enclosures for chickens or fowl should include buried wire floor and ceiling. Most chicken wires will allow access for a raccoon hand or a snake head, the use of half inch hardware cloth will prevent intrusion of a raccoon’s hand or a snake.
  • Decks should be constructed so that wildlife cannot get under.  The base can be wood, rock, brick or hardware cloth to ground level.  To prevent digging bury wire from the base “L” shaped attached at a 45-degree angle with the base extending at least 12 inches away from the sides.  These 12 inches will discourage digging. Buried depth is recommended to be 4 to 6 inches.

Areas that are desirable for shelter are typically dark, cool, and located in areas that your pet generally does not travel.  Yards without pets are even more desirable if not maintained.

  • Leave water dishes for your pets outside only if your pet is outside
  • Don’t allow your sprinkler system to create pools of water that attract wildlife and insects
  • The use of noise, light, or water deterrents activated by motion can make wildlife feel uncomfortable or threatened and are helpful if you have a pool or pond that is visited.  
  • The following are just a few devices that can be used (click the link below).

Opossums are nomadic naturally. Once dining opportunities are gone, they typically move along. An opossum may stay for several days if she has babies, patience is recommended.

Mild deterrents can be used to encourage the opossum to move. At dusk because opossums are nocturnal, introduce a bright light, a radio on a 24 hour talk show or rap station and apple cider vinegar-soaked rags at the den location. Turn these deterrents off at day break. The next morning, check for babies that could have been left behind at the den and in the yard. Cover the den opening with newspaper. If not disturbed for 24 hours the opossum has moved.

The most important step is to repair or secure the den site to prevent re-entry. If the den site was under a deck or building, secure by constructing a “L” shape barrier of hardware cloth. The horizontal of the “L” will be at a 45-degree angle away from the structure at least 12 inches in width and submerged four inches or so. An animal that typically digs to gain access will quickly be discouraged from this barrier and will move on.

Skunk, opossum, raccoon, or armadillo enjoy dining on grub worms.  Digging activity is usually noticed after a lot of rain or overwatering from a sprinkler system.  The moisture causes the grubs to rise to the surface.  Wildlife eating grubs is beneficial and is free pest control.   Once the grubs are eaten the wildlife will continue their journey.  Patience and tolerance are recommended.

To Encourage the Wildlife to Move Sooner, adopt these changes to your lawn maintenance.

Practice deep watering of your lawn especially in August. The grub eggs require frequent moisture to hatch.  By limiting the frequency of watering, the moisture reduction will reduce the number of eggs hatching.

In late spring to early summer, reduce outdoor lighting which attracts the June bugs and other beetles.  This may reduce egg laying in your yard.

Do not cut your lawn short as this makes a more attractive site for laying eggs. Let it remain taller.

Over seed your lawn in the spring and fall.  A thick lawn is too dense to accommodate the beetles.

Use an eco-friendly fertilizer for your lawn in the spring and fall.  A healthy lawn is more resistant to pests. A good comparison with tips at this site:  http://www.greenhome.com/blog/cut-the-crap-making-your-own-eco-friendly-fertilizer-is-easier-than-you-think

Attract birds to your yard that may dine on grub worms and other insects.

These Products are Recommended for the Treatment of Grubs.

Your purchase through our product page supports the DFW Wildlife Coalition Hotline.  

Mix 1 cup Castor oil, 1 cup liquid dish soap, and 1-gallon of water.  Put in a garden sprayer and spray the area of concern. You will need to respray as needed due to rain or sprinkler system.

One longer-term solution is a product called “Milky Spore”, (not effective in Texas for the white grub), this is a natural non-toxic bacterium that will kill grubs and can be purchased online or your local garden store.

Beneficial Nematodes is another long-term solution for grubs and can be purchased online or at garden stores.  In Texas, commercially-available nematodes have shown a 50% reduction of grubs. Carefully follow instructions for the best results.

According to Texas A&M Agri-Life Extension the repeated use of spiked sandals (sold for aerating) over the infested turf may reduce grub population by 50%.

Apply Neem oil as a botanical pesticide.

Adopt the lawn care recommendations.  Encourage those insect eating birds.  And if needed the products recommended to reduce the digging activity in your yard.  Remember the wildlife are beneficial in keeping our rodent populations under control.