Opossums In The Garden: Why We Need These Nighttime Friends

Opossums In The Garden: Why We Need These Nighttime Friends

The opossum often gets mistreated and rejected because of its odd rat-like appearance and stealthy nighttime behaviors. However, opossums are wonderful garden friends, and we do ourselves and our gardens a disservice if we force them to leave (or worse). Opossums eat pesty insects and rotting plant matter, acting as the garden clean-up crew on a nightly basis. Having an opossum family in your garden means you'll have a much healthier, maintained vegetable patch without expending lots of effort.

Will Opossums Destroy A Garden?

No. Opossums aren't a threat to vegetables or fruits. They may take a fresh vegetable snack every so often, but they much prefer rotting food, insects, slugs, and toads. An opossum will happily dive into trash cans, compost piles, and pet dishes, which can be a big problem. However, those issues are separate from their actions in the actual garden.

The Benefits Of Opossums In The Garden

Opossums eat a wide variety of garden pests, including slugs, rodents, snakes, ticks, insects, and dead animals. If your garden has a slug problem, having an opossum family around is priceless. Gardeners who deal with slugs every year understand how harmful and tricky these pests are to all vegetables.

  1. The opossum loves a buffet of ticks. An opossum eats an average of 3-4,000 ticks per week. If you live in tick country, you may want to take measures to invite more opossums to your backyard!
  2. Being nocturnal, opossums only visit the garden at night. If you have an aversion to wild animals or opossums, in particular, this means you generally don't have to worry about encountering them. It is easy to coexist without ever seeing each other.
  3. Opossums are not harmful to humans in any way. They are not aggressive, are very rarely carriers of rabies, and aren't a danger to pets or children. When threatened, an opossum will growl, hiss, and bare its teeth, but it's all for show because they are scared. They will fall over and play dead if approached.

Discouraging An Opossum, If You Must

If you prefer not to have these beneficial marsupials around your garden, there are ways to discourage them from taking up residence.

  • Opossums live in places where food is easily accessible. Their favorite food sources include open trash cans, pet food, uncovered compost piles, rotten vegetables and fruits, and rodents. The easiest way to discourage an opossum is to remove popular food options. Tightly cover trash cans, bring pet food indoors, clean up the garden of rotting vegetables, and cover up the compost pile.
  • The favorite nesting places for an opossum family are underneath houses, patios, and decks. By blocking off access to these locations, you'll prevent them from moving in. Only do this at night, though, if you already have an opossum living there. If you block it off during the day, you'll trap them underneath.
  • Opossums are climbers and diggers, so erecting a fence around the garden only works if it is tall enough. Any fence must be at least 4-feet tall with a curved upper edge to prevent climbing and have at 2-feet of fencing underground to prevent them from digging underneath it.

If you see opossums in your backyard or garden, don't panic. It is unlikely they will cause any terrible damage to your crops. In fact, if you see a lot of damage from critters, it is most likely not the opossum causing it. It is more probable that an opossum family will eliminate pest issues and give you a cleaner garden. Think twice before removing or exterminating this important wild creature. Opossums deserve our thanks for all they do, not our fear and disgust.
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