Close up of Opossum with its mouth open.
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Are Possums Dangerous?

Possums are often seen as a nuisance by many people. However, there are many reasons why they shouldn’t be feared. They are omnivores that feed on plants and animals, making them essential in balancing the ecosystem by controlling pests such as rodents.

Possums are also nocturnal animals, which means they are active at night. This is why they are rarely seen during the day unless disturbed. Although they may display aggression when cornered, possums are generally harmless and only attack humans as a last resort.

Key Pest Points:

•  Opossums are important in regulating the ecosystem by controlling pests such as rodents.

•  Although possums may display aggression when cornered, they are generally harmless and only attack humans as a last resort. 

•  Opossums will play dead to avoid confrontation if they feel threatened. 

What Common Problems Do Possums Cause?

Despite being generally harmless, possums can still cause a few problems. Here are some common issues that possums can cause:

  • Possums may enter attics or sheds and create nests, creating unpleasant odors. 
  • They may damage cables and wires when looking for food in urban areas. 
  • The presence of possums can be an annoyance in residential areas.
  • Possums can have certain diseases like leptospirosis. 

Remembering that possums only try to survive is essential. Even though they can cause some problems occasionally, it is still best to leave them alone and not fear them. 

Do Possums Pose a Danger to Humans?

Possums are often shown as savage animals, but they are not aggressive. When faced with a threat, possums will resort to bluffing by opening their mouths and hissing to appear more intimidating. 

Another unique defense mechanism used by possums is playing dead. Feeling threatened, they often collapse on the ground, open their mouths, and excrete a foul-smelling odor resembling death. This behavior earned them the name “playing possum.” While playing dead, they cannot move or respond, mimicking a deceased animal and thus discouraging predators from attacking them.

Aside from these tactics, possums are generally docile creatures and attack only as a last resort. Even then, their bites are rarely severe.

Virginia Opossum Sitting On A Bale Of Hay

Do Possums Pose a Danger to Pets?

Despite possums being generally non-aggressive towards humans, they may pose a threat to pets if cornered or threatened. So, if a pet tries to chase or attack a possum, it may feel threatened and display aggression as a defense.

Pet owners should remember that possums have sharp teeth and may inflict injury if they are scared. Moreover, opossums have been known to carry ectoparasites that can be passed onto other animals, so avoiding interaction is best. 

What Diseases Do Opossums Carry

Possum diseases may affect humans and other animals. One disease that possums can have is leptospirosis, caused by bacteria found in the urine of infected animals. This disease can be transmitted to humans through contact with contaminated soil or water. Some symptoms are fever, headache, muscle aches, and vomiting.

Another disease that possums can have is tuberculosis. It is caused by bacteria that can infect the respiratory system. Even though it’s not common for people to get tuberculosis from possums, it is still possible. Other illnesses that possums can carry include salmonella, toxoplasmosis, and various parasites.

In addition to carrying diseases, possums can also have fleas, ticks, mites, and lice. Remember, many possums’ illnesses can be stopped through simple hygiene practices, such as washing your hands. 

Are Possums a Risk to Property?

Opossums seek shelter by nesting in attics, sheds, or other enclosed spaces, resulting in damaged insulation and chewed wiring. This can create fire hazards if left unchecked. 

Possums are also known to be scavengers and will eat anything from garbage to garden produce. As a result, they can knock down garbage cans or eat the fruits and vegetables from your gardens. This can cause a lot of property damage, which is frustrating for homeowners who take pride in their homes. 

While it is possible to stop possums from nesting in your home, there are steps you can take to lower the damage.

How to Get Rid of Possums

Possums are a nuisance due to their tendency to nest in enclosed spaces and scavenge for food in homes and gardens. However, there are humane and effective ways for homeowners to manage this problem.

  • Traps can help catch these animals without hurting them. Opossum traps can be purchased online or at hardware stores.
  • Make sure potential nesting sites are off-limits to these pests. Sealing holes or gaps around your home and placing screens on vents could be a good way to stop them from living in your home. 
  • Remove any potential food sources from your property. This means picking fallen fruit from trees, containing garbage in secure bins with lids, and keeping pet food indoors. 

Remember that possums are wild animals. Never attempt to touch or handle them and keep your pets away. 

Adult female Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), commonly known as the North American opossum on the fence

Do Possums Benefit Humans?

Despite the potential risks that possums can pose, these animals also have some beneficial effects. Here are a few: 

  • Possums help to control insect populations by eating snakes, rodents, and insects. They provide a natural form of pest control that can help lower the need for chemical pesticides.
  • They are essential for the health of our forests, as they help to disperse seeds from the native plants and trees that they consume. 

Possums play an essential role in our ecosystems. They help to maintain the balance between predator and prey species. They can also provide food for predators like hawks, foxes, and owls. 

FAQs

Now that you know the different ways possums can benefit your garden and the ecosystem. Here are the most frequently asked questions about these outdoor critters:

Do possums attack humans and bite?

If possums get scared or feel threatened, they can bite in self-defense. Even though it is rare, avoiding these wild animals is best. 

Is it bad to have a possum in your yard?

Opossums are not the best-looking animals, but they can benefit your garden. They feed on pests like snails, spiders, rats, cockroaches, mice, and snakes. 

Are possums aggressive when touched? 

Although possums are usually harmless, they can transmit diseases that could be deadly to humans and pets. So, respect these wild animals and do not touch them. 

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