Are Opossums Pests?

Opossum sitting in a tree

Are opossums pests? Well, it depends on how you define “pest.”

Any creature that causes safety, comfort, or cleanliness problems on your property is considered a pest. This may surprise you, but opossums rarely fit that description! 

There are many slandering myths out there about opossums, but the real truth is it is extremely rare for these critters to go near humans, pets, or livestock—or pose any significant threat to them. Don’t believe the rumors. We’re here to debunk some opossum-related myths, answer questions, and share other totally opossum facts about them!

Cryptid Species Creatures

Opossums fall into a category of animals called “cryptids” that possess these characteristics:

  • Nocturnal activity: They sleep in the day and roam the land at night.
  • Non-confrontational: As we’ll explore further, opossums and other cryptid species respond to perceived threats by hiding or “playing dead” instead of attacking or running away.

Cryptid species are not to be confused with cryptids, which are mythological creatures like the Lochness monster or sasquatch.

Opossum or Possum?

If you’re living in North America, the Virginia opossum is likely the one you’ve seen. Opossum, despite how it is spelled, is pronounced like “possum.” There is also a species of animal that is spelled “possum” and pronounced the same way, but we don’t have them in North America. Both are marsupials.

Our Only Marsupial

The Virginia opossum is actually the only marsupial species living in North America. So, what is a marsupial?

Marsupials are a type of mammals with many unique characteristics, the most prominent being that their size at birth is so small that they need extra protection. The mothers carry their young in a pouch or external skin fold so they can continue developing safely in there until they’re ready to live on their own. 

When opossum babies are still small, yet a bit too big for their mama’s pouch, they hang onto her fur and ride around on her back! Other examples of marsupials include kangaroos, wombats, and koalas, and little, smiling creatures known as quokkas. None of these animals are found in North America like opossums are.

Are Opossums Pests?

We have way more reasons to love opossums, but we must acknowledge the pest-like nature of a few opossum behaviors.

Trash Diet

Opossums are omnivores so they can (and will) eat just about anything edible. If they live near your home, then they’ll probably sniff their way close to your property when your trash is extra odorous. Much like raccoons, opossums will open your trash can, hop in, chow down, and make a huge mess in your yard when they dart back to their home base. 

You need to take measures to prevent opossums from making these messes, but you don’t need to injure or kill the animal. You just need to scare it off and reinforce the lid of your trash can with locking straps or bungee cords.


Opossums don’t make their own homes: They enjoy squatting in whatever shelter they can access, whether that’s nests, hollow tree logs, people’s garages, crawlspaces, porches, storage sheds, and more. If an opossum is hanging out where you don’t want them, they’re not hard to scare away and will take the hint to move along. 

For this reason, we would rarely consider an opossum a pest because they’re not going to hurt you, your property, or be excessively invasive. If you come across an opossum at night, it will either hiss and hide, “play dead,” or run away. It’s not going to jump at you or otherwise cause distress.

Do Opossums Have Rabies?

Another reason not to “put down” an opossum or consider them a pest is that, unlike rodents and raccoons, they do not have rabies or other fatal, viral diseases and cannot spread them to other creatures or humans they come into contact with. The reason for this is that an opossum’s body’s internal temperature is so much lower than that of other endotherms that it cannot sustain viruses. 

Opossums’ inability to carry rabies makes them significantly less dangerous to people than other creatures. Rabies-infected animals, like some squirrels, behave aggressively and lose the healthy inhibition they would normally possess to avoid larger beings (such as people or dogs), and that’s why they don’t feel afraid to attack and bite them. Again, this does not occur with opossums. 

That’s not to say that opossums cannot carry disease whatsoever, or that they can’t be host to the same little pests that’ll hitch a ride on outdoor cats and dogs like fleas, ticks, and mites—because they certainly can. It’s just very unlikely they’ll get close enough to you to spread any of the other diseases they can carry, but you should avoid trying to pet or domesticate them.

Leave Opossums Be

Whether you think opossums are cute and fascinating or you still think they’re pests, we would advise not to mess with them. Opossums are wild animals and they only live to be one to two years old. Let them enjoy their life in the great outdoors while they’re here!

We still understand that sometimes opossums can be stubborn and may have a pattern of causing chaos. When you have a problem with an opossum or other wild creature on your property, and they won’t leave, call an animal or pest control professional. We can handle the situation and keep your family safe.

At Vulcan Termite and Pest Control, we have proudly served families in Alabama since 1965, and we would love to help yours, too! Call us at 205-663-4200 or contact us online today to learn more about our affordable, effective pest control solutions.

Thanks for reading! To learn more about the pests and other creatures found here in Alabama, check out our pest blog.