Possums are a problem for Australian homeowners and New Zealand wildlife, as they get into attics and stain ceilings with urine puddles. In New Zealand, the possum appetite for baby birds threatens many endemic species. So, many people frequently ask themselves, “How do I get rid of possums?”.
How to get rid of possums? To get rid of a possum, you must call a licensed relocator or obtain a permit. But there are ways to discourage possums from taking up residence on your property. With just a little effort, possum-proofing your property can save you a lot of headaches and expenses.
This article will teach you how to scare a possum away and how you can get rid of possums naturally. You’ll also learn how to remove possums from your house and how to keep them out in the first place. So, if you have possum problems, never fear; we’re here to offer you solutions.
What Is a Possum?
Australia is home to 23 different possums. Most Australian possums live in remote areas and only rarely encounter humans. Only two species of Australian possum commonly reside in and near human habitation:
- Common ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus). Ringtail possums are approximately the size of a small cat and mostly grey with a white belly and eye fur and orange-brown fur on their limbs and tail. Though sometimes encountered by humans, ringtails cause fewer problems than the more common brushtail possum.
- Common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). Brushtail possums are indigenous to Australia, thrive near humans, and are found in most Australian cities, suburbs, and rural areas. The brushtail is a nuisance in Australia and an intrusive threat to indigenous wildlife in New Zealand.
What Does a Possum Look Like?
Brushtail possums have pointed faces, pink noses, long oval ears, and a bushy black tail that gives them their name. An adult possum’s head and body are 32-58 cm long (13-23 in) with a 24-40 cm (9-16 in) tail. It weighs 1.2-4.5 kg (2.5-10 lb): males are bigger. Brushtail possums are Australia’s largest possum species.
At first glance, ringtails look very like brushtails. But ringtails are smaller, averaging 30-35 cm (12-14 in) with a white-tipped tail of equal length. Ringtails weigh between 500g-1kg (1 -2 lbs), with an average of 700g (1.5 lbs).
Where Do Possums Live?
The brushtail possum is widespread throughout eastern and northern Australia, with populations in Tasmania and Western Australia. In the 1850s, they arrived in New Zealand with farmers hoping to sell their thick fur. Though the fur trade never took off, the possums did. Today, New Zealand has a higher population density of brushtail possums than Australia.
The ringtail possum is found along Australia’s eastern coastline and in Tasmania. Ringtails most commonly reside in or near dense scrub forests with heavier undergrowth. While brushtails prefer tree hollows, ringtails build dreys – nests of leaves, grass, and shredded bark – in trees.
How Long Do Possums Live?
Possum babies (“joeys”) are born undeveloped and spend time maturing inside their mother’s pouch. When they get too big for the pouch, she carries them around on her back. The female possum cares for her joeys for eight to eighteen months before they disperse.
75% of possums die before their first birthday. Young possums don’t just have to worry about predators; they also often have to fight other possums to claim a den. The oldest captive possum lived to be over 14 years old, but in the wild, few possums get past 7.
Are Possums Nocturnal?
Possums are more active at night. During the day, they sleep in their dens and come out foraging after the sun goes down. Many possums meet their doom crossing highways at night. If you see a possum during the day, it may be sick and is more likely to respond defensively by biting or scratching. Approach with caution and never try to pet or touch a wild possum.
What Do Possums Eat?
Ringtail possums eat leaves and will sometimes dine on flower buds, fruits, and vegetables from gardens. Brushtail possums are more omnivorous, supplementing their plant diet with baby birds and eggs. Because possums have no natural predators in New Zealand, their populations can grow to the point where they damage trees and threaten ecosystems.
Types of Possums
Most of Australia’s possums avoid humans whenever possible. They make their homes in rainforests and scrub brush, where they hunt at night and hide by day. But a few possums have still managed to become famous.
Herbie, the official mascot of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, is a Herbert River ringtail possum. Found in the rainforests around the Herbert River, these ringtails are slightly larger and darker than a common ringtail. Herbie can be found on the shoulders of every Queensland park ranger.
The little pygmy possum lives up to its name. At 2.5-3 inches long (6.6-7.5cm) and 7-10 gram weight, the little pygmy possum is common in Tasmania with isolated populations on the far southern Australian mainland. Its slightly larger cousin, the western pygmy possum, has been declared “the Cutest Australian Animal.”
Are Possums Dangerous?
We’re more dangerous to possums than they are to us. Each year, many of them die on Australian highways: pet dogs and cats kill many more possums. In New Zealand, pilots spray huge land areas with 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) to eradicate possums, rabbits, and other invasive mammals.
Possums don’t want conflict with humans and will avoid it. But they can spread a few nasty diseases. And if introduced into a foreign ecosystem, they can do irreparable damage to local plants and animals.
Do Possums Carry Diseases?
Possums can carry several dangerous diseases. They’ve been linked to the spread of Buruli ulcer, a painful flesh-eating infection. In 2020, an NSW woman was diagnosed with tularemia after being bitten and scratched by a ringtail. Approach possums with caution and sterilize any former possum lair to avoid bacteria and parasites.
Do Possums Bite?
Possums will seek to escape a threatening situation if at all possible. If that doesn’t work, they may growl, hiss, bare their teeth, and scratch at you. They may even “play possum” by fainting. But any cornered animal will bite as a last resort, so never try to touch or pet a possum.
What Attracts Possums?
Like all animals, possums seek food and shelter. To a young possum seeking territory and a meal, your house looks like a warm, safe den surrounded by more fruits, vegetables, and leaves than it could ever eat. To keep possums away, you need to convince them your buffet and inn is a disgusting and dangerous place.
How Do You Get Rid of Possums?
In Australia, possums are protected and can only be removed by licensed possum relocators or with a permit. Relocators typically set a trap in the attic, then block off the access points. Once the possum is trapped, it can be relocated.
A relocator must release the trapped possum no further than 50 meters (160 feet) from the spot where it was captured. Removing it into another possum’s home range results in deadly quarrels. Also, abandoning a possum in the wild leaves it at the mercy of crows, dogs, and other predators.
While you may need to hire a relocator to remove your unwanted possum, there are four safe and humane steps you can take to discourage possums from getting into your home and garden.
Inspect Your Home for Possible Entry Points
Brushtail possums make their homes in tree hollows, but they can be hard to find in suburban areas. And for a young possum, finding a den is the difference between life and death. If they can’t find a hollow tree, they’ll happily make a home in your attic.
Check your roof carefully. If there’s any space large enough to fit a possum’s head, that possum can make its way into your attic. Fill those gaps with crumpled paper. If something knocks the paper loose during the night, you already have an unwanted guest.
Seal any entry holes or gaps with hardware cloth like YARDGARD Hardware Cloth. While a possum’s claws can strip bark, having installed a hardware cloth will send them searching for a new crash pad.
- Hardware cloth
- Ideal for screen doors, gutter guards, animal control, cages,...
- Commonly used for inexpensive, temporary enclosures
- Lightweight and flexible
- Double zinc coating
Protect your Plants and Vegetables
If you want to know how to deter possums, you need to know what smells possums hate. They loathe the smell of blood meal, so a blood meal-based repellent like Plantskydd Animal Repellent will make your garden much less appealing to a wandering possum. And as a bonus, a blood meal is good for your plants!
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Clean and Disinfect Your Possum’s Former Home
When possums move into your attic, they mark their new territory with urine. Your first sign of an infestation may be smelly yellow stains on your ceiling. Disinfect your possum’s former home with ammonia or an antibacterial disinfectant and clean out any possum droppings to minimize the risk of you or your pets contracting any possum-borne diseases.
How To Get Rid of Possums in Some Specific Places?
No matter where your possum has taken up residence, there are ways to move it along.
How To Get Rid of Possums in Yard?
Protecting your fruits and vegetables with chicken wire discourages possums from coming to your yard for a free meal. If you have fruit trees, pick up any fallen fruit in the afternoon. Keep tight lids on your garbage cans as possums will go through trash for food.
How To Get Rid of Possums Under Deck?
Cats and dogs are natural possum predators. If you see possums around your deck, try sprinkling some dog or cat hairs or scat nearby. The scent will discourage the possums from seeking shelter under your deck and in your home.
How To Get Rid of Possums Under House?
Make sure you do have possums under your home. Australian possums are semi-arboreal and generally prefer nesting in trees or elevated areas. If you hear skittering beneath your home or in your walls, chances are you’re dealing with rats, not possums. Possums are heavier than rats and announce their presence with a thump, not a skitter.
How To Get Rid of Possums Under Mobile Home?
To discourage possums from exploring under your mobile home:
1. Block off space beneath the trailer with a wire cloth.
2. If you do this during the day, check to see if a possum is already sleeping there.
3. If so, scare him out with a broom but be careful. It’s not typical for a brushtail or ringtail possum to hide on the ground, so the possum may be ill or injured.
How To Get Rid of a Possum in Your Garage?
If possums keep coming into your garage, the Aspectek Yard Sentinel will scare them away. It uses ultrasonic sounds to drive away possums, rats, and other vermin. While humans can only hear up to 20kHz, a possum can hear noises up to 35kHz.
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How To Get Rid of a Possum Under Your Shed?
To get rid of a possum under your shed, purchase Shake-Away Critter Repellent Granules, which use fox urine – a safe and effective natural possum repellent – to discourage the pests. Predator urine makes prey animals very nervous. Put some granules beneath your shed, and possums will flee.
- Takes advantage of the predator-prey relationship and prey...
- Non-toxic, organic method to reduce and often eliminate pest...
- Provides an easy way to apply time-released urine-impregnated...
- Great for deterring rabbits, groundhogs and possums
Best Possum Repellents To Buy
The most trusted possum repellent is Natural Armor Animal & Rodent Repellent Spray which uses peppermint oil to make your plants unpalatable to possums. Available on Amazon, this spray is natural, non-toxic, and effective at deterring possums without harming them or the environment.
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How To Get a Possum Out of Your House?
Camphor blocks or mothballs can drive a possum out of your attic. Possums despise the smell and will be reluctant to stay in a camphor-scented den.
Caveat: Camphor and mothballs can poison pets and children, so be careful about where you place and store them.
How Do Possums Get Into Your House?
Possums can squeeze through surprisingly small cracks. If a possum can get its head into your home, the rest will soon follow. The trick is to fill those cracks because although they can get in through an existing gap, they can’t claw their way into your home.
How To Get Rid of Possums With Home Remedies?
To create an effective homemade possum repellent spray, do the following:
1. Soak a few cloves of minced garlic and some hot sauce overnight in a quart of water.
2. Strain the mix, and add a teaspoon of liquid soap.
3. Spray it on areas where you have noticed possums.
How To Trap a Possum?
In New Zealand, where possums are a dangerous introduced species, many pest controllers recommend a Timms trap. They’re box traps set with a spring-loaded bar. When a possum sticks its head in the box for food, the spring goes off, and the bar breaks the possum’s neck.
Possums, like all native animals, are protected in Australia, so check your state and federal laws before trapping any possum. Many states require a licensed removal expert, while others allow possum trapping only with a permit and humane traps.
How To Keep Possums Away From Your Home?
It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to keep possums away from your home may be building a possum nest in your yard. They come to your attic for shelter but would rather live in a hollow tree. An elevated nest box means the possum doesn’t need to visit your home. And because they’re territorial, an occupied nest keeps other possums away.
Possums are cute and fluffy, but they can also be disease-carrying pests. Getting them out of your attic can be a challenge, but with a few easy precautions, you can make your home and your plants a lot less attractive to possums.
List of Sources
McPhee, S. (2020). Probable case of ‘extremely rare’ disease after woman bitten by possum. News.com.au.
Meyer, G. (2000). Trichosurus vulpecula: silver-gray brushtail possum. Animal Diversity Web.
Osugi, M. et al. (2011). Behavior-Based Assessment of the Auditory Abilities of Brushtail Possums. Journal of the experimental analysis of behavior.
Queensland Department of Environment and Science. (2016). Possums.
Atkinson, I.A.E., Campbell, D.J., Fitzgerald, B.M., Flux, J.E.C., Meads, M.J. (1995). Possums and possum control; effects on lowland forest ecosystems. Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.