Opossums are found in most areas of Arlington. These are nocturnal mammals that grow to be about the size of a cat. They have beady eyes, are grayish in color and have a long pointed snout. Their tail is long and rat-like, and their paws have opposable “thumbs”. Being nocturnal, opossums are scavengers at night looking for an easy meal, such as unsecured trash, or pet food left outside. At times, they are thought of as somewhat helpful by ingesting insects and small rodents that prey upon gardens. Their diet is eclectic in that they will eat both plants and animals.

Opossums seek locations to build a nest in the shelter of a space underneath a shed or deck, in an attic, or anywhere else they feel safe and hidden from view in the daytime. Females usually reproduce twice a year, with gestation time of only 11-12 days. The new babies (called joeys) are about the size of a honeybee. They are born blind and without fur, and they maneuver their way to their mother’s pouch to begin feeding. They remain attached to the mother for about seven weeks. Many opossums do not survive their first year, and in the wild the typical lifespan is about two years.

Opossums that feel threatened may appear to be aggressive by baring their sharp looking teeth and making hissing sounds. At times, they will “play possum” by becoming motionless, as if they think they will not be seen if they do not move. Opossums typically are not carriers of rabies, so if aggressive behavior is seen, it is most likely the opossum attempting to fend off what it views as a potential enemy. Ignore the opossum, and it will likely walk away.

Reference sources: 911 Wildlife and Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

Discouraging Opossums from Homes

  • Do not leave pet food outside at night;
  • Enclose areas under sheds and buildings to keep opossums from nesting underneath;
  • Keep rotting fruit and or vegetables picked up;
  • Block easy access - block holes under fences and other pathways;
  • Keep trash containers tightly sealed;
  • Keep landscaping well groomed;
  • Keep tree branches back from house and buildings and fix any holes in home;
  • If you have a dog door, lock it or block it up at night;
  • Don’t leave birdseed in feeders or on the ground overnight;
  • Cover crawlspace and attic openings with heavy gauge, rustproof wire mesh (not chicken wire);
  • Carefully inspect your eaves and other areas where the roof and house join. Repair deteriorating boards, warped siding and loose shingles;
  • Help prevent animals from digging underneath a deck by creating an L-shaped barrier. Attach heavy gauge wire mesh to the base of the deck, sink it six inches into the ground, bend it 90 degrees away from the deck for 12 inches and then cover it with soil.

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