Opossums are one of the many creatures that will happily steal the home of another animal, and that does include a human home. They’re lazy animals, stealing food, homes, and even nesting/bedding material, and if there is a hole that allows these creatures to easily gain access to a warm, dry and comfortable spot, they are going to jump on that opportunity very quickly.

If your home is perfect for you, it is going to be close to perfect for other animals, too, and many of those will be pests that come with LONG lists of other problems.

There are 5 essential steps that you must take to get opossums out of your attic and then keep them out. If you ignore or avoid just one of those steps, you will very quickly find yourself right back to square one again. If it’s not an opossum that comes right back and invades your space, it will be another wild animal instead, such as rats, mice, skunks, snakes, etc. One pest animal always attracts another — it’s the circle of life.

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1 — Identify the Animal

This might sound like an obvious step, but opossums in the attic will need a very different plan of attack to rats in the attic, bats in the attic, or other wild animals/pests in the attic. You must tailor your removal methods for that one particular animal you’re faced with if you want to have the best chances of success.

You can easily identify an animal in the attic by looking for things such as poop, nesting material, holes used to get inside, and patches of damage. If you do have an opossum in your attic and not another animal, these are some of the common signs:

Common Signs

Opossum Poop

Looks like dog poop or raccoon poop, but is in weird places and usually a bit smaller. Raccoons use latrines, whereas opossums scatter their waste material.

An odd, musty smell

The stronger the smell, the closer you are to the animal. The smell can sometimes mimic that given off by a dead animal, which is actually a defense mechanism.

Scuffling, calling, screeching

...or rustling sounds coming from inside the walls, crawl spaces, the attic, etc. Opossums are larger than rats, so will make a slightly louder noise than rats. They are usually smaller than raccoons, however, so will make fewer “thump” noises than what you’d hear if you had a raccoon in the attic.

Wild animal sounds

Many wild animals will sound like each other, especially if you don’t really have that much experience with pest animals. Opossums, just like other scavengers, are nocturnal, so the majority of noise will occur during the night. You may hear the adult moving around, or calls from youngsters in a nest. In almost all cases, an opossum in the attic is going to be a mother with a nest filled with young opossum babies. You are going to need to deal with this entire problem.

Torn up insulation or personal belongings

Opossums aren’t the only animal to do this, but if you have a critter living in your attic, it will only be a matter of time before you see the destruction they’re leaving behind. They’ll chew and move/use any material they can get their paws on to make their nest or bed a much softer, safer, and more comfortable place to stay.

2 — Come Up With a Plan

With opossums, the method of removal will depend on the situation. You can’t really use an exclusion device to get rid of a mother opossum if her babies are going to be trapped in the building she’s just been evicted from. This will end up with the inevitable death of probably all of those babies. That might not seem like a bad plan to you, but those youngsters are going to die a very long, slow, and painful death, and the mother will probably suffer a similar fate.

The best plan for opossum removal is to use a professional. They will usually locate the mother and youngsters, and then wait for the mother to leave before grabbing the young pups by hand. Those young pups can be used as “bait” in a larger trap — a cage-style trap — that looks the release (or disposal) or the entire family in one go. This deals with the entire nest problem, but doesn’t finish off the job.

In some cases, this approach will not work to get rid of opossums. If the opossums are stuck, or just one or two of them is stuck, you’re going to need to get a lot more hands-on than you’d probably anticipated, and that also means buying a truckload of protective clothing and equipment to make sure you and your household are safe during the removal job. Opossums, just like other wild pests, carry a string of diseases that you’ll want to eradicate as soon as possible.

3 — Post-Removal Disposal

This is part of the job that many homeowners do not take into account … What are you going to do with the animal once you have trapped it? You should answer a number of questions, not limited to:

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Questions to Ask and Answer

Is it legal for you to release an opossum or opossums?

Where are you going to release the opossum(s) if it is legal?

Is it safe for you to release an opossum or opossums in your area?

Will that release cause a problem for other households or businesses?

Are there going to be long-term repercussions for the release of the opossum(s) in the area in which you’re planning to do it?

Can you travel with the animal safely and then release it again safely, without putting you or anyone else in danger of spreading disease or getting bitten?

Is releasing the opossum really the best thing to do?

It is considered rare for wild animals to survive for long after they are released into a new territory or habitat, especially when they are released on their own and not with the group they were in.

4 — Post-Removal Cleanup

We’ve already mentioned that urine and feces can be a massive disease threat after wild animals are gone, and you are going to want to clean everything those animals could have come into contact with. Opossums run and poop, unlike raccoons, which prefer to have one latrine area to do their business. This makes your life much harder — you are going to need to find every shred of waste material and clean it up, before then cleaning the area again with strong cleaners that are designed to breakdown the biological material.

If you do not clean up opossum waste and biological matter, you won’t just be harboring potentially deadly diseases, you’ll also run the risk of attracting other critters to the party. Pheromones are left behind in urine, which act as communicators to other opossums, as well as other animals. If you have dead opossums, the scent of their flesh will attract flies and maggots, alongside other beetles and insects, and the carcasses will also attract other scavengers, too, such as, rats, raccoons, foxes, cats (stray and domesticated), wolves, coyotes, and more.

If you thought trapping or finding the animal was hard work, cleaning up after an opossum has lived in your attic is going to make you wish you were trapping again. This part of the job is often the worst, with the nastiest smells and awful sights, and also one of the most time-consuming and labor-intensive. You will need to don your best protective gear and scrubbing gloves and get scrubbing!

5 — Future Prevention

All of your efforts will have been for nothing if you do not keep up with it all, and that means making sure that all holes are sealed and the animals have absolutely no way of getting back in again. As you were doing the other four steps, you will have (should have) noticed areas where there seemed to be more poop or urine staining, or perhaps light that could indicate holes that come through from the outside world. These holes and patches of damage will all need to be sealed right up, with the right kind of materials to keep them out. Strong, with sharp claws and teeth, and determined, a little, flimsy protective barrier is not going to be overprotective at all.

More Resources

Are Opossums Blind? (and other questions)

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What Lives Under My Shed? Opossum or Skunk?

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