Common in Wisconsin, opossum are not rodents, but marsupials. They are the largest type of marsupial in North America. When opossums give birth, they do so early on in the gestation and the babies make their way into pouches located in the mother where they grow to maturity. They are generally nocturnal, which is when you often see them around the garbage cans, their eyes glowing when hit by the car headlights.
|Color||They have long, coarse dark gray to white-gray outer body fur with a black or dark brown underfur and on the legs.|
|Size||Adults are between 24-40" long, including a 10-12" long tail. They weigh between 4-12 pounds, with males larger than females. Opossum tracks look similar to raccoon tracks, except for the presence of the distinctive rear thumb. The front-feet are 2" long, and the rear feet are 3" long.|
|Appearance||Each foot has five toes. The first toe of each hind foot lacks a claw and is opposable (“thumb like”). They have large, black, hairless ears, small black eyes, and white, fur covered faces. Their snouts are long, pointed and tipped with a distinctive, pink nose.|
The diet of the opossum is very adaptable to the environment they find themselves in, making them opportunistic eaters. If it smells good and is easily accessible, they will eat it. Opossums eat anything from insects, fruit, plants, slugs, snails, rats, mice, frogs, crayfish and carrion, as well as pet food or food left unsecured in garbage cans.
Opossums are not picky when it comes to their habitat, found anywhere from open woods, brushy shrub lands, farmlands, parks, suburbs, and even in urban areas. They may occupy abandoned dens of other species, or live in hollow logs, tree holes, under porches or in crawl spaces. No matter where they are, there will always be a reliable water supply nearby.
Opossums are solitary animals except during their breeding season, which occurs between February and August. A female reaches sexually maturity by one year of age. After its first year, the female opossum is capable to having up to two litters of 8-14 young. After 12 to 13 days of gestation, the tiny newborns crawl up into their mother’s fur-lined pouch where they will be nurtured by her mammary secretions. The young remain in the pouch for eight or nine weeks while they grow at a fast rate. By 14 weeks of age, the young opossums are weaned and are left to fend for themselves.
Damage & Disease
Although an opossum has a relatively fearsome face and bear some resemblance to rats with their long tails, they are not generally dangerous. They also rarely carry rabies, which is a common concern, especially for pet owners. They can bite and defend themselves, but they are not considered much of a threat.
There are only a few diseases that are associated with opossums. They tend to have lower incidents of rabies than other wildlife pests, but they might carry: Leptospinosis, Tuberculosis, Relapsing fever, Tularemia, Spotted fever, Toxoplasmosis. Several of these actually come from the parasites that opossums carry with them, and can become serious.
Opossum are very opportunistic. If there is already a hole in the roof, they might use it to get into attics, but they will rarely dig or chew those holes themselves.
They might dig in your lawn looking for grubs and other insects that lurk just below the surface level.
Prevention & Control
Like many pests, the best way to get rid of them is to make changes to your home and property so that opossums do not find your home attractive. This means doing things like:
- Removing vegetation and debris from your property to remove hiding places.
- Securing lids on garbage cans and containers.
- Bringing pet food inside.
- Making sure that holes and entry points around your home are secured.
- Trimming the trees around your home. Opossums are excellent climbers and will use trees to get onto your roof.
- Sealing up areas beneath your deck or porch to eliminate places for them to hide.
Much of wildlife control is knowing and understanding the habitat and behavior of the animal. Opossums are transient animals, and typically move on after a couple of days. If necessary, live trapping can be done with canned cat food or apples.
If you’re having problems with opossums around your home or business, contact a pest control professional for expert removal services.