Wildlife: Opossum

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.

  • If the animal has been hit by a car, attacked by a cat or dog, and, an adult can safely do so, a helping hand is appreciated.
  • Your personal safety is first and foremost.  Gloves are recommended. If you do not have gloves use fabric such as a towel, T-shirt, or whatever fabric you may have on hand.  Cover the injured animal as this will reduce stress and assist in protecting yourself.  
  • When a mammal is covered, depending on the species, they may still move or struggle, however it will be reduced as compared to not covering the animal as you are reducing the fear of the animal by blocking their vision.  
  • Never pick an animal up by the tail.
  • If the animal is an adult rabies vector, raccoon, fox, coyote or skunk please contact authorities for assistance.
  • An injured animal will try to defend itself.  Do not pick the animal up unless you can safely do so.  If you are bitten or scratched, and the animal is a rabies vector it will have to be tested for rabies.  So, do not risk yourself as you are also jeopardizing the animal’s life.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Remember if you cannot contain safely, contact authorities for assistance or call the hotline at, 972-234-9453.
  • Read FAQ: How to contain and prepare wildlife for transport
  • Read FAQ: Ways to provide heat for orphan or injured wild animal
  • Read FAQ: How to locate a wildlife rehabilitator

Thank you for being a caring person and for taking the time to save wildlife! Once you have identified an animal in need of care, it will be necessary to contain the animal so that it can be safely transported to a permitted animal rehabilitator. Only adults should handle wildlife, provided it can be done safely.

Steps in the Transport Process:

  1. Choose an appropriate container for transport.
    Containers need to be chosen based on the wildlife being rescued/transported. For tiny to small animals, a shoe box with a few extra air holes poked from the inside out works well. For medium to older babies, use a small to medium pet carrier or larger box. If using a pet carrier, cover the carrier to make the inside dark.  For adult animals, be sure the container has a lid and that the animal cannot chew through or get out of the container. Remember darkness helps the animal to relax. Never transport with an open container!
  2. Prepare your container
    Provide soft bedding. An old T-shirt or similar fabric is ideal. Avoid fabrics with large loops or an extremely open weave. Towels, terry cloth, and similar fabrics have threads that can get wrapped around little toes and ankles and cut off circulation.
  3. Placing animals in the container
    For baby animals, use an old T-shirt or wear gloves to gently pick up and place the baby wildlife in the container.  Older wildlife will definitely require gloves and the T-shirt or a towel In order to have adequate fabric between you and the terrified animal.  The towel serves two purposes: aids in protecting your hands and covers the little animal’s eyes to make it less afraid as you pick up and place in the container.
  4. Provide heat source.  Read FAQ “Ways to provide heat for orphaned or injured wild animal”.
  5. Reach out to a professional.
    Contact DFW Wildlife Coalition hotline 972-234-9453 or a permitted wildlife rehabilitator for instructions and information on when and where to transport. The hotline is staffed by volunteers and rehabilitators might be caring for animals when you call. It may take an hour or so for a return phone call. Until then, keep the container in a quite dark place away from family pets and children.
  6. Be prepared to transport as soon as possible.
    If you are personally unavailable, check with friends, family, or neighbors.  Often there is someone willing to participate in the rescue. If you still are having difficulty check with your HOA, neighborhood app or Facebook.  Uber is an option as well.
  7. During the transport process:
    ** Please refrain from using the radio while driving. The little life you are transporting is very afraid and the radio will only add to its stress.
    ** Please do not transport in the bed of a pickup truck! Wind, road noise, and extreme temperatures could further compromise the animal.
  8. Meeting the Rehabber:
    When meeting the rehabilitation professional and handing off the animal, please remember to give details of the rescue to the rehabber.
    ** A donation towards the care of the animal would also be deeply appreciated by the rehabber. Rehabilitators do not receive assistance from city or state agencies.

Thank you for being a caring person and for taking the time to save wildlife!

Saving a life begins with making sure an orphaned or injured animal has heat. Begin by providing soft bedding for the animal you are rescuing. An old T-shirt or similar fabric is ideal. Avoid fabrics with large loops or an extremely open weave. Towels, terry cloth, and similar fabrics have threads that can get wrapped around little toes and ankles and cut off circulation.

Once you have provided bedding, the next step is to supply warmth. Holding or placing an animal in your pocket is not an adequate or safe way to keep the baby warm.  It is also terrifying for the animal. Remember, to the animal you are rescuing, you are a predator!

Warming techniques:

  • Place 1 cup of uncooked rice in a sock and tie or rubber band the open end. Place in the microwave for 1 minute. If not warm, heat another 30-60 seconds until the sock is warm but NOT HOT. If you don’t have rice, try lentils or similar product.
  • Put hot water in a bottle and place the bottle in a sock. This is a good solution if you are traveling or at the office.
  • If it will be several hours until you can transport the animal to a rehabilitator, use a heating pad set on low.  It is very important to place heating pad under one half of the container only so that the animal can choose the side of the container it prefers.  When checking on the baby, it should be warm but not sweaty or hot.
    • CAUTION: Newer heating pads have automatic shut offs that you may need to monitor if you are keeping the animal overnight.  

The rice sock or hot water bottle will travel with the animal as you are transporting to a wildlife rehabilitator.  Each can be reheated as needed and normally they will each hold the temperature long enough to transport the animal to safety.

There are several options for you as you begin your search for professional help for an animal in need. Remember, the wild animal you have rescued should be respected as such. Please keep children and pets away from wild animals

 

  • DFW Wildlife Coalition telephone hotline 972-234-WILD or 972-234-9453
    Hours of operation are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., 365 days per year.  Our 100{376de46712742e812dd3d98559fb34c156542d2d9d295b06b04bc04c2527f5a7} volunteer operated hotline will assist in finding a wildlife rehabilitator that specializes in the wildlife or type of injury, orphaned, and or conflict or concern you may have.  
  • Animal Help Now (www.ahnow.org)
    If you have called the DFW Wildlife Coalition and it is after hours, you cannot reach a volunteer, or you live outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas and surrounding counties, you may find a wildlife rehabilitator at Animal Help Now website (www.ahnow.org).  Animal Help Now is a national database of wildlife or veterinarian professionals.

 

You may download Animal Help Now, free application for either iPhone or Android called “Animal Help Now”.  This app will work on GPS lists wildlife rehabilitators or veterinarians based on hours of operation.  You may need to search in surrounding cities or counties. If you are searching late at night, you may want to check again in the morning in the event there are other options.  

If you cannot locate a rehabilitator or transport the animal immediately, provide heat all night and do not attempt to feed.  Most animals will not eat when in pain and you can do more harm than good by force feeding or providing food. Please refrain from handling needlessly. Remember, you are a predator and may be causing undo stress and fear.  Prey species can die from stress.  

As tempting as it might be to keep the animal and attempt to care for it yourself, please remember that it is illegal to keep a wild animal. Delay in transporting may be the difference in life or death and the animals best chance at survival rests with being placed with a permitted professional.  If you delay, you might compromise the recovery of the animal you have rescued.

 

ONCE YOU HAVE LOCATED A REHABILITATION PROFESSIONAL

  • Be prepared to transport as quickly as possible once you have located a rehabilitation professional.  If you know that you cannot do so, please reach out to neighbors, family and friends for help in transporting the life you have rescued. Wildlife rehabilitators have their hands full providing feedings, medical attention, and husbandry to the animals in their care; they typically do not have the time or volunteers to pick up wildlife.  If you still cannot locate transportation, please reach out to friends in your HOA, neighborhood app, or Facebook. Uber might also be an option for transport.
  • Once you have placed your animal with the rehabber and provided information about its history with you, please donate to the wildlife rehabilitator as they do not receive assistance from city or state agencies.

Thank you for being a caring person and for taking the time to save wildlife!


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.

Many of our urban neighbors, such as skunk, opossum, raccoon, or armadillo enjoy dining on grub worms.  Normally, this takes place after a lot of rain or overwatering from a sprinkler system as the moisture causes the grubs to rise to the surface.  Eating of the grubs is beneficial and free pest control.   Once the grubs are eaten the wildlife will continue their journey.  Patience and tolerance are recommended, however there are those times you may want to encourage the wildlife to move sooner.  Following are recommendations.

    • Mix 1 cup Castor oil, 1 cup liquid dish soap, and 1-gallon of water.  Put is 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{376de46712742e812dd3d98559fb34c156542d2d9d295b06b04bc04c2527f5a7} 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{376de46712742e812dd3d98559fb34c156542d2d9d295b06b04bc04c2527f5a7}.  
    • Other ways to prevent grub worms are as follows:
      • In late spring to early summer, reduce outdoor lighting which attracts the June bug 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 fertilize for your lawn in the spring and fall.  A healthy lawn is more resistant to pest. 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
  • 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.

It will take some preventative measures to reduce and prevent grub worms, the results will be a healthy lawn and less wildlife digging.

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