Rodent infestations can take many forms, from large rat nests to one or two opossums (which are marsupials) that qualify as nuisance animals. The first step in eliminating any rodent problem is to identify the species you're dealing with.
Unfortunately, many rodents are nocturnal and wary of the noise and smells of humans, so you're unlikely to get a good look at these unwanted visitors. To identify your pest, you'll need to pay attention to other signs of an infestation.
In this blog, we discuss where opossums are likely to be found, explain some of the extensive damage these rodents can do, and list five common signs of opossum infestations.
Places You May Find Opossums
Opossums, which are actually marsupials, prefer outdoor areas that feel more rural than urban and have lots of plant life for shelter. However, opossums can easily find their way into most homes, even in the city. Opossums are natural climbers and may use trees on your property to access the roof and attic of your home.
Like other rodents, opossums may also take up residence in open wall voids between insulation batts, unused and dark basement space, or garages and sheds.
Why Opossums Infestations Are a Big Problem
Because opossums are one of the largest nuisance rodent species, they tend to cause more widespread damage than rats or mice, even though they live in significantly smaller groups. Most infestations consist of one to two opossums or an opossum mother and her young.
Opossums may rip shingles, siding, or insulation with their teeth and claws. Opossum feces can also leave large stains and may carry diseases like coccidiosis and tuberculosis.
Contrary to popular belief, opossums almost never carry rabies because the animals have an unusually low temperature for mammals that kills the disease. Any hissing and drooling are generally a defense mechanism rather than a symptom of a contagious disease.
Opossums can also be difficult to get rid of on your own because they are not easily scared or intimidated. If their hissing display does not work on a predator, the opossum may either play dead or become aggressive. Mother opossums in particular may pick a fight to protect what they perceive as their territory.
Signs of an Opossum Infestation in Your Home
If you have opossums in your home or inside another building on your property, the infestation should be immediately apparent. These animals are loud and less confined to nocturnal schedules than some rodents.
If your infestation is a group of opossums, you may notice any combination of the following five signs.
- Damage to the Building Exterior
Because opossums usually enter a building by climbing, you may notice exterior damage first. Often, opossum damage takes the form of torn up shingles and ripped soffit on your rooftop. An opossum infestation may also impact your siding, eaves, and gutter system.
- Disappearing Pet Food
Opossums are particularly drawn to cat food. If you have cats, especially any outdoor cats, you may notice that their food disappears more quickly when you have an opossum infestation. If you suspect an opossum infestation, take measures to protect your cats who could become injured in a fight with an opossum.
- Frequent Animal Vocalizations
Opossums have a wide range of vocalizations, including hissing and shrieking. Mother opossums also make clicking or lip smacking sounds to call their babies. If you notice these noises when inside a building, chances are you have an infestation or a single opossum trapped inside.
- Loud Scratching Noises
As opossums nest, they make lots of ripping, scuttling, and scratching noises. These noises can sound similar to rats or mice, but you will likely notice that the noises seem louder because they're created by a bigger animal.
Additionally, you may notice scratching across a wider area with an opossum infestation than with any other rodent problem because opossums do not stick solely to the edges of the attic space.
- Pervasive Unpleasant Smells
One of the most distinct signs of an opossum infestation is the smell. Opossums defecate more frequently than most mammals and their droppings can be as large as a house cats. These wet droppings can soak into insulation and building materials, causing a distinctly unpleasant odor.
Opossums can also become trapped by wiring or other architectural elements and may die there. If you have a dead opossum in your attic, you'll know by the strong smell of decay.
If you notice a sudden influx of opossums in the area around your home, an interior infestation is more likely to develop. Cover all openings to your attic or basement and pest-proof any outbuildings to decrease the risk of infestation.
If you have an opossum infestation, call Greenleaf Organic Pest Management. We are fully licensed in nuisance animal trapping and can help you install measures to keep future pests away.