How to Get Rid of Possums in Your Backyard and Save Your Garden

These animals are an anomaly in so many ways. They are the only native marsupial species in the country, they have the most teeth of any mammal here, and they have a prehensile tail. Probably the only thing you’re interested in though is how to get rid of possums in your backyard.

Fortunately, a lot of the steps you can take to control these animals will also provide assurance against other pests. Therefore, it’s worth taking at least part of the problem under control.

Understanding Your Foe

It’s essential to begin with the animal’s life history to know how to tackle this problem. That will give you the info you need to make your yard inhospitable to them and help you take more drastic measures if deterring them doesn’t work.

Possums or opossums are small to medium-sized animals that get up to 13 pounds. Interestingly, animals living in urban areas alongside people have ballooned to over one-third heavier than their rural counterparts.

A possum lives a solitary life, coming out at night to forage and scavenge. It’s an opportunistic animal that will feed on a variety of foodstuffs from frogs to seeds to insects — and everything in between. They’ll even eat roadkill!

Possums are active all year long, with only brief respites in their dens if the weather takes a turn. While they take other small mammals and birds, they’re usually on the other side of the predation competition. 

Bobcats, coyotes, and raccoons are some of their worse enemies, with people being the top one. Roads are another indirect foe with many animals ending up as the roadkill that others will scavenge.

Possums are prolific animals, which can add to your difficulties for a permanent fix. They often have several litters a year, producing upward of 13 young each time.

Playing Possum

This familiar reference describes the animal’s strategy against predators like you. When confronted with danger, the possum will act dead to deter a fox or other animal. They complete the rouse with closed eyes and a putrid smell to cause them to move on from the carcass.

We don’t know how well it works in action, but considering the fact that we still have possums, it must get the job done.

The Case for and Against Hunting or Trapping

Unlike other pests like rodents, possums are pretty tame by comparison. They avoid people and confrontations. They soon learn the habits and activity levels of a household and stay away from the property if they perceive a possible threat.

Surprisingly, they don’t pose a significant rabies threat either. Possums can even survive being bit by poisonous snakes like rattlesnakes with little ill effects either.

You also have to consider the unintended consequences. Getting rid of the possum is one thing. However, you also open the door for the other pests that the animal is eating and controlling like mice and snails.

On the flipside, possums, like many wildlife species, carry ticks and other parasites that you certainly don’t want in your yard. They also can transmit leptospirosis, a disease that both you and your pets can get from them. 

If you haven’t vaccinated your dog or outdoor cats for this bacterial condition, we strongly urge you to discuss the risks with your veterinarian. It’s not a typical part of the schedule of shots your vet may recommend.

And, of course, there is the damage that possums do to your garden, compost pile, and trash cans. We understand how maddening it is to find an overturned can with garbage strewed around your yard when you’re already late for work.

How to Get Rid of Possums in Your Backyard with More Drastic Measures

There are other roadblocks to, shall we say, a more permanent solution. Many states classify possums as game animals. That brings a whole new set of laws and regulations into the mix.

You may have to get a license or permit to take them legally. Also, there is typically a scheduled season too with time restrictions if you’re going the hunting route.

Trapping is equally as problematic with similar regs and added risk. You should avoid contact with the live or dead animals because of the health concerns we cited. Also, you can’t just let a live possum go anywhere. You’ll likely face laws stating what you can and can’t do on this score too.

You can get traps that do the deed. Otherwise, it’s up to you to dispatch it if you choose not to release it. Consider that consequence carefully. 

The other option is to go with your rights when dealing with nuisance wildlife. Many areas will allow you to take matters in your own hands, especially if the pest is causing property damage. You may only have to pay a nominal fee.

However, if you want to use a firearm, you’ll have additional requirements that you must follow. They often include where you can shoot in relation to public roads and human dwellings. And there’s always the risk of killing a non-targeted animal.

We can’t urge you enough to wear gloves when handling the carcass however it happens. Clean up any blood, urine, or other body fluids with bleach solution. Better yet, throw away the towel or sheet you use to transport it per regulations.

The alternative is to hire a wildlife control professional. It’s a convenient option, but it will cost you. And there’s always the risk that another animal will come in to fill the vacated territory. Possums are relatively short-lived, so it likely won’t take long before the trouble starts again. Hardly, a solution. 

Let’s move onto fixing the problems, starting with the best method first for getting it under control and preventing recurrences.

Prevention

The thing to understand with possums is that they are more nomadic than many nuisance wildlife species, looking for new ground every few days. If you’re patient, they may just move onto the next promising site.

The exception, of course, is if they have a den on your property.

The key to how to get rid of possums in your backyard is not to provide the things that the animals are looking for in your yard. They’re trying to find three things:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Shelter

Your task is to make sure you’re not providing any of them inadvertently. Even if the possums don’t become permanent residents, you don’t want them to visit your property on their rounds of the neighborhood.

On the Hunt for Water

Possums prefer wooded areas near a water source. It doesn’t matter if it’s the creek running along your property line or the koi pond as part of your landscaping. If you have a birdbath, make it more difficult for the pests to climb it such as adding a squirrel baffle.

Also, make sure that your rain barrel isn’t leaking. Bring your pet’s water bowls inside at night too.

Looking for Food in all the Wrong Places

As we discussed earlier, possums are hardly picky about what they eat. Their keen sense of smell helps them find the goodies wherever they are. Just don’t make the hunt easy for them.

Keep your garbage can inside of the garage, if possible. If you have to keep it outside, make sure it has a locking lid. Also, place it away from trees and other structures that can make it easier for them to get to the stuff inside of it.

When considering how to get rid of possums in your backyard, don’t forget the ones that aren’t obvious. For example, a filled bird feeder is the equivalent of setting out the welcome mat, not just for these pests but any other one that finds the stash.

We’d also recommend that you feed songbirds only during the fall and winter when the birds need this food source. During the spring and summer, they have plenty of options and don’t necessarily need this supplement.

Besides, it’ll save you some cash.

Do you have an apple or pear tree on your property? Possums will love the fruit on the ground, along with the deer and raccoons. Recruit the kids to pick up what has fallen off before the resident wildlife finds it.

Are you saving scraps in a compost bin? Make sure the lid locks. At the very least, cover up the tasty morsels inside with less desirable foodstuffs like leaves or grass clippings.

Gimme Shelter!

Possums have their share of enemies. Staying on the lookout for them uses precious energy. Take away their cover by keeping your bushes, trees, and other vegetation well-trimmed. Store your wood in a locking bin instead of piling it against the shed or house.

Keep scavenging animals out of any outbuildings with a padlock or at least a bolt lock. Their opposable thumbs can only do so much. After all, they still have to figure out how it works.

Using Other Deterrents

You can complement these measures with other ways to dissuade a marauding possum on the hunt for food, water, and shelter. A motion-sensor light preferably with an alarm will startle the animals and make your yard less inviting.

You can also set up a motion-sensing sprinkler to give the possums a blast of cold water to keep them out of your garden or other areas within your yard. 

We like this option the best when using these types of devices. Wildlife will soon learn that a security light or siren isn’t a threat to them. You may scare them off a few times, but they’ll figure it out over time.

Then, you’re back at square one.

Alternatively, you can try moving them to other parts of your yard to keep that scare factor in your favor. Another option is to use decoys like coyotes. Our advice is to get one that moves to continue to fool them.

Mixing it up puts you in control of your pest problem. The transient nature of possums makes it an effective way to optimize the use of deterrents. Their lifestyle makes it easy to implement and use.

We’d also suggest using a variety of methods. The more you use, the better. The adaptable nature of possums will nudge them to look for easier pickings away from your yard.

If you want to trap or shoot the possum, use prevention methods too. It doesn’t matter to the local population how the pest was eliminated. The result will likely follow this path with another animal invading your land next.

Dealing with Possums Inside of Your Home

If the possums have found their way into your house, we can understand your anger and frustration. The garden is one thing but inside your home is not cool. It also increases you and your family’s risks of the parasites and diseases that the animals carry.

We’ll touch first on prevention.

Trim any tree branches that are near the structure. Possums are excellent climbers that will take advantage of an easy route to a new den. If you’ve thought about vines like English ivy on the side of the house, bear in mind that it’s another leg up and into your abode.

Other things to consider include:

  • Installing a chimney cap
  • Putting plastic spikes at entry points like gutters
  • Tacking flashing on corners that could provide easy climbing

Barriers like these are effective and set-it-and-forget-it solutions that are on the job 365/24/7. They will soon pay for themselves.

Getting Rid of a Resident Animal

We sympathize with you if you’re in this boat. Your plan of attack involves two tasks: making sure the space is vacated and sealing it off from re-entry.

That’s one of the reasons we back off from using poisons. Animals will go back to their place of safety, i.e., den to die. You don’t want them to go back to your house or attic because of the stench that will follow. 

Though it’s inconvenient, it makes good sense to be absolutely sure the possum is out of your house before you close off its access to your home. That often means doing the job at night when the animal has gone on its nightly rounds.

Rest assured that if you go with a plan that includes prevention, you’ll get it done. You’ve got this.

Final Thoughts About Possums

Possums aren’t always high on the list of wildlife pests like rats and raccoons. However, they are sometimes destructive and can cause a lot of headaches, especially if they make your home their den. That’s when you need to take charge and find ways to keep them off your land.

The lifestyle and behavior of possums lend themselves well to putting up barriers and deterrents to make your property less desirable. And, you’ll usually succeed in the end with patience and persistence

Possums, like all wildlife, strive to conserve their energy resources. Everything you do costs them precious time and calories. Stick with it and keep up with a myriad of ways for how to get rid of possums in your backyard. You will win the war.