Common Name: Opossum
Scientific Name: Didelphis virginiana
- Adult body length (without tail): 15 to 20 inches
- Adult body weight: 4 to 15 pounds
- Gestation period: 12 to 13 days
- Litters per year: 1
- Litter size: 5 to 25 young (average 7)
- Breeding season: February through March
- Birthing season: March through April
- Age at which young are weaned: 12 to 15 weeks
- Activity period: Night
- Range: 10 to 50 acres
Opossum Pest Status
The opossum is the only marsupial native to this country. Opossums often become pests in and around buildings. Where numerous, they may den beneath dwellings or porches or take up residence in attics or outbuildings. They frequently raid uncovered garbage cans and tear open plastic garbage bags set out for disposal. Their nighttime prowling often arouses kenneled or tied dogs, causing them to bark. In rural areas, poultry or eggs are sometimes preyed upon.
Opossums have been involved in the transmission of tularemia to humans, and should not be handled without protective gloves. Additionally, they have been reported to be infected with, and may be carriers of, a number of other diseases including leptospirosis, relapsing fever, murine typhus, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Fortunately, very few cases of rabies have been reported in opossums, and laboratory evidence suggests that adult opossums are quite resistant to rabies infections, although the young are more susceptible. Opossums often are heavily infested with ectoparasites such as cat fleas.
Habitat modification and sanitation. Food sources attractive to opossums should be made inaccessible whenever possible. Pet food dishes should be brought indoors at night. Trash cans and bins containing food garbage should be secured. Fallen fruit should be cleared away from beneath fruit trees located near dwellings.
Physical / Mechanical
The most permanent way of correcting opossum problems resulting from their living under buildings or in attics or outbuildings is to opossum-proof the building. A buried wire exclusion fence comprised of 1/2 inch mesh galvanized wire hardware cloth, fastened as a skirting around decks and porches, above and below ground, will prevent re-entry by persistent opossums.
Opossums are readily taken by Varment Guard technicians using live-catch wire cage traps (16″ x 5″ x 5, 24″ x 8″ x 7″ or traps of similar type and size). Traps are set in trails or at entrances to dens. Raw meat, frankfurters, poultry, fish, moist canned dog or cat food are excellent bait choices.
Although not a method practiced by Varment Guard, opossums can in some situations be spotlighted and shot at night, assuming that the shooting can be done legally and safely (e.g., in rural settings, using a .22 caliber rifle), if the property owner is so inclined.
Dispatching / euthanasia. Ohio requires live-trapped opossums to be euthanized due to their potential in spreading communicable diseases to other animals. Carbon monoxide (CO) is used by Varment Guard to displace the oxygen in an air-tight chamber designed to accommodate one or more live-catch traps. This humane method asphyxiates the captured animal while still in the trap. Because of the potential of spreading disease, releasing live-trapped opossums elsewhere is not advisable and is illegal in Ohio.