How to Scare Possums Away from Your House

  • While they look kinda cute to some people, these lovers of trash cans can become a nuisance if they get too comfy inhabiting your house. 
  • Possums are 24-26 inches-long nocturnal small mammals that grunt, growl, hiss, and screech, making them easily detectable. 
  • How to prevent possums in your household, or deal with the opossum problem if these small animals are already in? Keep reading to find out!

What are possums? 

Possums (Virginia opossum) are small rodents frequently seen in North and South America.

An average opossum is 24-26 inches long (tail included) and weighs 6-12 pounds. Yet, these wildlife pests can grow even up to 40 inches, which is about the size of a house cat. 

Common opossum seen in North America is covered in white or grayish hair, has a rat-like tail, and a long, pointed face with round, hairless ears. They are the only marsupial found in North America.

Important: There is a difference in looks between two different species: possums, with furry tails (much like that of a squirrel) and opossums, with bare tails. Distinguish them by the seven key differences explained by Bob Vila.

Although a possum is a passive animal, rarely aggressive or prone to attack humans, their defensive hissing can look pretty ferocious. Add the display of all 50 teeth and vicious drooling, and you will get the idea. 

Possums eat 

  • fruit, 
  • grains, and
  • insects,

but you can also catch them going through 

  • compost piles, 
  • garbage cans, and 
  • pet food dishes 

if they manage to access them. 

Also, don’t be surprised to see these small animals eating fish, birds, and other animals mammals.

Fun fact, to “play possum” comes from the curious behavior specific to this animal. It’s a common defensive mechanism of behaving like dead or asleep if under attack or threat from predators. 

When possums play dead as one of their scare tactics, they engage in an involuntary defensive state (which means they don’t really “decide” to do it), which comprises 

  • their mouths opening, 
  • lips turning black, 
  • teeth showing, 
  • secreting foul liquid, and 
  • foam from the mouth appearing;

Important: Possums aren’t dangerous to humans directly—they don’t attack them, but they carry infectious diseases, such as leptospirosis, tuberculosis, spotted fever, relapsing fever, tularemia, toxoplasmosis, coccidiosis, and Chagas disease; Possums may also be infested with fleas, ticks, mites, and lice, and these other pests can then spread to the surrounding areas of the home.

Possums on your property—how to find out?

How do you know your house is a subject of the possum invasion?

You’ll see possums wandering around your property in the nighttime. They are quite big, so it’s unlikely that the possum problem goes unnoticed. Garbage cans are one of the possums’ favorite food sources—you’ll probably spot them there.  

Have you observed knocked-over trash cans and woke up to missing pet food? These are other signs that possums have been roaming freely at your place. 

Have you heard noises that are hard to pin down and tend to become louder at night?

Possums make various sounds (and they haven’t yet found out how to hide them).

So, expect to hear vocalizations such as hissing and shrieking. Possum mothers use clicking or lip-smacking sounds to call their babies over.

Apart from vocalizations, you will notice loud scratching noises. This is because these small rodents will create their own nests inside your house, making lots of ripping, scuttling, and scratching noises. 

Apart from being significantly louder, these noises will resemble sounds made by rats or mice.

Other signs of possum infestation, according to Eastside Exterminators, are damage to the building exterior, as well as to insulation and ductwork. 

The foul smell is another sure sign that it’s time for pest control.  

Opossums defecate more frequently than many other wild animals and most mammals. Sadly, although they are smaller, their droppings can be as large as a house cat’s. 

The trouble gets even more severe when these wet droppings soak into insulation and building materials, and the revolting odor persists and spreads even more. 

Unfortunately, your house’s wiring or other architectural elements can be a live trap. If possums become trapped and die there, you’ll notice the potent smell of decay.

Where to look for possums? Check:

  • crawl spaces,
  • in the attic—an optimal combination of warm and dry, 
  • in the garage—featuring a superb choice of dark places to hide,
  • under deck,
  • on the roof—possums are expert climbers, and some construction companies don’t completely seal off the home when building a new house;

Prevent possums

So, before we discuss animal removal or reach out to a pest control professional, let’s see what the means for keeping opossums away from your property are. 

According to the Humane Society, the best method to keep opossums from denning under a deck or patio is to ensure they cannot get there. It means reducing the number of their hiding places, not letting them access crawl spaces, and making sure any entry points have their holes filled accurately. 

Block especially vents, chimney, roof, broken tiles, eaves, etc.

To deter possums and stop them from growing and reproducing, if a mother possum is already inhabiting your place, wait until she leaves her den (typically about two hours after it gets dark). 

Then, loosely close the opening with straw, netting, or other fibrous material to ensure that an animal trapped inside can overcome this obstacle and escape. Still, an adult possum that’s already outside isn’t able to get back in.

Don’t worry! Possum moms take their kids with them wherever they go, so it’s unlikely that any possum child is left behind alone inside. 

If the hole hasn’t been touched for three nights, it’s safe to assume there’s no possum kiddo left, and you can fill the hole appropriately.  

Possums can also occasionally get in the house through the pet doors. By closing the doors to all rooms and opening the doors to the outside, you’ll encourage them to leave. 

Tip: Nudge a possum unwilling to leave gently with a broom. Possums aren’t aggressive and won’t do you any harm. 

Apart from finding ways not to let them in, you should pay attention not to attract opossums.

Possums are omnivores, and they’ll feed on almost everything that’s edible—odorous and overflowing garbage cans being in their first ten favorites.

Watch out not to attract opossums with containers left outdoors or uncovered compost heaps.

Possums find cinnamon scents inviting. 

So, on the one hand, make sure that this smell doesn’t spread around your garden. 

On the other hand, if you’re thinking about creating a baited trap, now you know which scent will lure possums in.

Get rid of possums

How to render your house free of possums permanently? There are a few more methods of effective possum control. 

One known possum repellents are scents.

Possums have poor eyesight but a strong sense of smell to determine where food is. 

Use it to your advantage and deter possums with 

  • camphor, 
  • garlic cloves, 
  • molasses, 
  • onion, 
  • hot peppers,
  • cayenne pepper 
  • wolf’s urine, or fox urine—by using possums’ predator urine, you refer to their natural instincts to run away, 
  • ammonia, and 
  • pet fur; 

Possums hate these smells, and it’s easy to engage these DIY methods to get rid of them. 

Another clever hack is to apply chemical repellents to garden areas. You can use, for instance, Poss Off or D-Ter.

You can also try repelling opossums by installing an Ultrasonic Possum Deterrent. In this technique, ultrasonic waves frighten the possum away from an area.

You can also capture possums using a humane possum trap without hurting or killing them. 

Set up a trap in an area where you expect possums to appear and make sure you use appropriate bait—it can be fruits, berries, vegetables, peanut butter, or other delicacies.  

Monitor the trap carefully. Once you have captured the possum, move the trap to a quiet spot. Then, cover it until you are ready to release your possum. 

Make sure you use thick gloves or a long pole—otherwise you may get scratched by a stressed possum. 

Also, when releasing the possum, point the cage in the direction you want the animal to run off into.

Important: Possums are a protected species, so reach out to your local state authority to arrange a permit or license if it’s required.

You can also install a wire fence or add spikes to fences to deter possums from wandering around and accessing your yard. 

Possums don’t have a bad influence on our households when they live as outdoor pets. The real possum problem starts when they move into your house.

Otherwise, be a good friend and install a nesting box (chicken coops) in a nearby tree. This way, you’ll create an alternative home for the possums, so they won’t have to come to stay in yours. 

Repelling possums may not be easy, but it’s doable. 

If you can’t handle it yourself, remember that you can always count on the experts in opossum removal. An experienced pest control professional will know how to deal with every case. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

These nocturnal animals aren't aggressive to humans. While foraging throughout the night, they'll typically go through our garbage cans looking for fruit, grains, and insects and will do what it takes to avoid us. Yet, if the situation gets heated, they will open their mouths and use defensive hissing to look vicious and scare predators away. Eventually, they'll reach out to their famous play dead survival method.
Interestingly, possums that live in the Americas have been shown to be more intelligent than dogs in tests and have a similar set of sensory skills (except for the possums' poor eyesight). These wild animals are quick enough to find any available method of escape in seconds—the question is whether it refers to what humans call "intelligence" or automatic defense mechanisms. Funnily, possums feature a combination of a curious mind and bumbling, which makes observing them entertaining.
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