Urban Wildlife – Opossums
Nature’s little sanitation engineer:
more information on opossums
Whether rural, residential or in the wilderness, opossums are a benefit to any area they inhabit. Their diet includes all types of bugs and insects including cockroaches, crickets and beetles. They love snails and also eat mice and rats. The nocturnal opossum is attracted to our neighborhoods by the availability of water, pet food left out at night and overripe, rotting fruit that has fallen from trees. The opossum in turn helps keep our neighborhoods clean and free of unwanted, harmful garden pests and rodents, which may carry diseases. The opossum has earned the title of “Nature’s Little Sanitation Engineer.”
Opossums are normally transient animals, staying only two to three days in an area before moving on. Removal is neither necessary nor desirable. If opossums were eliminated from an area, the population of roof rats and other pests would proliferate. Opossums serve an important role by controlling the unwanted, harmful pest population around our neighborhoods.
If you are determined to remove an opossum, then encourage it to do so on its own by removing whatever is attracting it to your area. You must determine what is attracting the opossum to your area and remove the attractants or other opossums and animals will come and fill the vacated niche. Opossums are usually attracted by pet food left outside and dense shrubs to hide under.
- Do not leave pet food out at night.
- Do not leave garage doors, pet doors or unscreened windows open at night.
- Do pick up fruit that has fallen from trees.
- Do cover garbage cans at night.
- Do clear dense bushes, woodpiles and other hiding places.
What do I do if I find an opossum in my yard? Nothing. Leave it alone. Opossums are beneficial, eating the harmful, unwanted pests around your home such as snails, slugs, spiders, cockroaches, rats, mice and snakes.
Opossums are often blamed for damage caused by other animals. Opossums are not generally known to fish Koi out of backyard ponds, cause lawn or yard damage or attack and kill neighborhood cats. Many residents are compelled to trap and remove opossums based on their looks and misinformation about their behavior. Despite trapping efforts, opossums will always be an abundant urban wild animal in your neighborhood. Rather than trapping the animal, it is better to remove food sources and maintain your property in a manner that is less inviting to them.
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Do not feed opossums:
In Pinellas County, it is unlawful to feed wildlife. Feeding can increase the danger of the spread of disease and draws in larger predators. Wild animals fed by humans may quickly lose their natural fear and possibly attack without provocation. Wildlife habituated to humans feeding them often have to be destroyed because of the danger they pose to neighborhood pets and residents. There is plenty of natural food available for opossums in the “wild.”
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There are diseases you can get from any animal (including pets) and you should not attempt to pet or get too close to an opossum. As long as you exercise common sense, the chance of getting a disease from an opossum is slim. Any mammal can get rabies. However, the chance of rabies in an opossum is EXTREMELY RARE. This may have something to do with the opossum’s low body temperature, 94 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit, making it difficult for the virus to survive in an opossum’s body.
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