Some people think they’re cute. Others believe that these furry, gray marsupials with hairless tails are scary. Still, if you have an opossum taking up residence in your home or yard, the most pressing question is whether these creatures are dangerous.
Good news — opossums are generally harmless. Their opened mouth and hissing can feel intimidating but is only used as a defense mechanism to make themselves appear dangerous.
However, we recommend that you avoid making friends with these nocturnal animals or inviting them to stay on your property. Here’s why.
Table of Contents
- What Are Opossums
- Where Do They Live or Hangout in Homes
- Benefits They Provide
- Problems They Cause
- Do Opossums Carry Diseases
- Are They Dangerous to Cats or Dogs
What Are Opossums?
Opossums are the only marsupials in North America. In the U.S., the Virginia opossum is a cat-sized creature with dull, gray fur, white and black markings, a long snout and pink paws. Their hairless tails are prehensile, meaning they can grasp branches or carry small objects. If you catch an opossum off guard, you’ll probably hear it hiss, growl or click as a warning to stay back.
Opossums are opportunistic scavengers, eating almost anything they can get their paws on. These omnivores will dine on plant matter just as readily as insects or small animals. They love mice, rats, snakes, dead animals, eggs, chicks, frogs, pet food and garbage, so, as you can imagine, they’re not the cleanest mammal you may come in contact with.
Where Do Opossums Live or Hangout in Homes?
In the wild, opossums live in woodland areas near water, like swamps or streams. However, their extreme adaptability has helped them thrive in various habitats — including urban and suburban areas alongside humans. Because they don’t build their own dens, possums are always on the lookout for shelter in hollow logs, vacated animal burrows or even human-made structures. You may find an opossum taking up residence in your porch, attic, stairs, garage or woodpile.
Benefits Opossums Provide
Opossums are the unsung heroes in the fight against ticks and the Lyme disease they can transmit. These little scavengers also help keep local ecosystems in balance by eating mice, rats, cockroaches, and snakes. Opossums are beneficial for disposing of carrion, too.
What Problems Do Opossums Cause?
Opossums are not destructive in nature. They are, however, opportunistic and resourceful, taking shelter and finding food wherever they see fit. These instincts can lead to property damage, such as overturned trash cans, ransacked birdfeeders, raided chicken coops, torn ductwork or insulation and more.
Do Opossums Carry Diseases?
Opossums are most dangerous because they can potentially transmit diseases to pets and people. Their body temperatures and high immunity make it rare for an opossum to have the rabies virus, but they often host parasites like fleas and disease. Opossums can carry diseases such as:
- Spotted fever
- Chagas disease
- And more diseases.
Are Opossums Dangerous to Cats or Dogs?
If you’re considering your furry friends’ safety, know that opossums do not prey on cats, dogs or other larger mammals. Although opossum attacks on pets are unlikely, they may lash out if cornered or competing for food. More commonly, opossums play dead or emit a horrible stench if frightened.
Learn More About Customized Opossum Removal Solutions From Urban Jungle Wildlife
If you notice property damage or see some little paw prints with four clawed toes and one off to the side, you may have an opossum taking up residence in your home or around your property. Reach out to Urban Jungle Wildlife Removal for a customized wildlife removal solution. We can safely and effectively handle all your opossum or pest problems. We trap and remove wildlife, but we also perform exclusion services to ensure animals and pests cannot get back into your home.