Opossum Control & Removal for Richmond
Biology and Habits
Opossums are very unique animals. They hold the distinction of being the only marsupial (pouched mammal) in North America, and – with fifty teeth in their mouths – also hold the distinction of having the most teeth of any North American land mammal. Opossums are active at night.
They will eat just about anything that can even be remotely considered food. They are very fond of carrion, insects, pet food, fruit, and bread. They commonly get into trash cans and dumpsters looking for a meal. They will patrol the streets looking for road killed animals to make a meal of.
They breed in late winter and again in summer. After a 13 day gestation, a litter of tiny babies is born. They crawl through the mother’s fur and into a pouch on her belly where they nurse and continue their development for another 7-8 weeks. Once they emerge from the pouch, they will remain with the mother for several more weeks, often riding on her back as she makes her nightly rounds.
Baby opossums leave the care of their mothers while still very small. Baby opossums only 6 or 7 inches long are already living entirely on their own. Many do not survive. Opossums get around this problem by having a lot of young. Litter sizes of 6-12 are common.
Damage and Hazards
Opossums are more of a nuisance than a real danger. They are very common in urban and suburban settings, and we even get a few calls each year to remove them from downtown!
Opossums will readily move into crawl spaces and attics to use them as dens. They will also live under decks and sheds. Baby opossums born in crawl spaces may crawl up through holes cut in the floor for the kitchen pipes and forage for food inside the house. Opossums under the house may damage insulation and sometimes cause foul odors.
They will eagerly eat any pet food left out and are known to enter pet doors to get a meal. Many people who encounter an opossum at night are surprised when the opossum does not run away, and are concerned that this may be a sign of illness. It is, in fact, normal opossum behavior.
Opossums are very slow (top running speed is about 7 miles per hour) so their defense is to open their mouths as wide as possible, hiss, sometimes emit a foul odor, and in extreme cases, play dead.
They will defend themselves if attacked, and occasionally an overly zealous dog will be injured after encountering an opossum.
Rabies is not usually a problem with opossums.
Opossums are not wary and are easily lured into cage traps. In the case of opossums living in a building, it is important that all possible entryways into the building be found and secured to prevent new opossums from reentering in the future. Opossums can be kept from getting under sheds and decks by installing fencing around the bottom edges and burying the fence underground. Pet food should not be left out where opossums can get it.
Trash containing food should be put into tight cans. Compost piles should be kept free of food scraps. Even with these precautions, opossums may come around on occasion. Just remember that they are very plentiful in our neighborhoods, and for the most part are gentle, harmless animals.