Dealing with Pesky 'Possums
by Dave Molinaro
My initial research into opossums, Didelphis virginiana, produced two unique discoveries. First, there are many recipes for cooking ‘possum. Second, we have a National Opossum Society dedicated to the care and preservation of opossums. No other varmint in this series is so honored by such a love-hate relationship. The society’s website is www.opossum.org and, if you are interested, has a special section devoted to caring for orphaned ‘possums. At the site, you can find many facts about these cat-sized nocturnal mammals.
The North Carolina Master Gardener Decision Support Guide is interesting in its own way. It begins the discussion of controlling ‘possums by suggesting shooting or trapping. Again, if you are so inclined, a .22 caliber rifle or Number 6 shot is appropriate. The University of Georgia’s Extension Service writes that shooting and trapping are effective, but frightening, repellents, toxicants and fumigants are not.
The National Opossum Society does suggest some ways to discourage and repel these critters. For example:
- Food Source. Keep garbage covered. Bring pet food in at night. If you have fruit trees, keep fallen fruit picked up. If opossums are eating under the bird feeder, you may have to stop feeding birds for several weeks. Do you have a compost pile? Cover any scraps with lots of grass or leaves.
- Security. Keep your yard well lit at night. Opossums are nocturnal; liking darkness, they find well lit areas unattractive.
Mixtures made with food items such as peppers and onion may be cooked and strained and used with a standard garden sprayer around your yard’s perimeter.
If there is one particular place you wish to discourage the animal from coming to, try this: Puncture a coffee can multiple times and place ammonia-soaked rags inside it. Replace the lid and place the can in the desired area. Use several cans if necessary and refresh the ammonia daily.
Sources: The National Opossum Society, the University of Georgia Extension and the North Carolina State University Extension.
Dave Molinaro, is a former Extension Master Gardener with Mecklenburg County, NC. During his tenure as an active volunteer, Dave was a frequent—and witty—writer for the in-house newsletter, The Thymes.
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