Look Who Came to Breakfast!

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Opossum in persimmon tree

Opossum in a persimmon tree Image by Lucy Bradley CC-BY-NC

I woke up to find this guy in the front yard gorging on persimmons. It is an opossum (Didelphis virginiana). Usually light gray, and at maturity around 15 lbs, opossums are about two feet long with a foot long, rat-like, prehensile tail. The only marsupial native to the United States, females have a pouch for carrying young. Opossums are nocturnal, opportunistic, omnivores; particularly destructive to poultry, but they also provide pest control as they are fond of insects and rodents. According to Charlie Lee, wildlife management specialist for Kansas State University, an opossum can eat as many as 5,500 ticks per year.

Opossums can be found statewide but prefer to live in hollow logs and crevices by streams or swamps in wooded areas. They are frequently found in towns and cities.

Opossums can be a nuisance in gardens where they eat berries, grapes, tree fruits, and nuts, and defecate on garden paths and patios. They can also inflict serious injury to dogs and cats with their sharp pointed teeth.

Opossums carry a wide variety of bacterial and viral diseases such as Chagas disease, coccidiosis, leptospirosis, relapsing feverspotted fever, toxoplasmosis,  trichomoniasis, tuberculosis, and tularemia. They may also be infested with fleas, lice, mites, and ticks and may facilitate the transmission of flea-borne typhus.

I have plenty of persimmons to share so will enjoy hosting this amazing creature, but if you do not want opossums eating your fruit try the strategies listed below. Begin with the first and only escalate to the next if needed.

Integrated Pest Management Strategies

Habitat modification—changes in habitat to make it less appealing, including removal of food or shelter (in this case – harvest the persimmons to remove the attraction)

Opossum on a Persimmon tree Image by Lucy Bradley CC-BY-NC

Opossum on a Persimmon tree Image by Lucy Bradley CC-BY-NC

Exclusion—creating physical barriers to wildlife (not a viable option in this case)

Repellents—frightening, sound, taste, odor, or tactile sensation
(The leaf truck loudly sucking leaves off the street nearby is what finally scared him away)

Trapping—Opossum can easily be caught in a box-style live trap and there are lots of great recipes with opossum.

Opossum in a Persimmon tree - image by Lucy Bradley CC-BY-NC

Opossum in a Persimmon tree – image by Lucy Bradley CC-BY-NC

Lethal control—follow local, state, and federal laws.

NC State Animal Damage Control recommendations.

Find additional information on co-existing with wildlife in the Extension Gardener Handbook.