Opossums are extremely resistant to rabies. If you see an opossum hissing, drooling, or swaying, don’t panic and assume they're rabid! Opossums use these bluff behaviors and play dead to outsmart potential predators. Opossums are much less likely to carry rabies than raccoonsbats, and other small mammals.

Possums are gentle neighbors and are rarely dangerous. 


Is it an orphan? Many opossums become orphaned after the mother is killed. Others become “orphaned” when they fall from her back or are somehow separated. These opossums must be raised by wildlife rehabilitators. However, many juvenile opossums brought to wildlife rehabilitators are not “true” orphans in need of care. They may be young juveniles on their own for the first time. While they may appear small and helpless, they are best left alone. Only opossums that are sick, injured, or too young to be on their own (less than 7 inches long from nose to rump, not including tail) are in need of immediate assistance.

Although some people shortsightedly write them off as pests, opossums are gentle, shy creatures who generally clean up messes rather than make them. These small marsupials eat slugs, insects, snails, and other critters, keeping those populations in check. A single opossum can eat 5,000 ticks in a single season—that’s some serious pest control!

If a young opossum is found, then check the surrounding area. There may be more. Be very quiet and listen for “sneezing” sounds the young make to call the mother.

Do not attempt to care for the opossum yourself. In general, it is illegal to do so unless you are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. More importantly, you may cause opossum harm or death if you do not know what you are doing.

Contact your local Opossum Society of the United States (OSUS) member, wildlife rehabilitator, veterinarian, state department of wildlife, or animal control for assistance. Always check first to make sure they do not euthanize all opossums.

Opossums get a bum rap. Often seen as a pest and accused of everything from knocking over garbage cans to killing chickens, these quiet marsupials are rarely a threat and are easily sent on their way.


Opossums are often accused but rarely responsible for getting into garbage cans or gardens. They are game to stop by and clean up the mess left by other wayward critters, though! They are often accused of killing chickens, something that happens very rarely. Most people complain about opossums just being there rather than for any problems they cause.


Possums are not aggressive: their open-mouth, defensive hissing is merely a bluff to look vicious. And if that doesn’t work, they play dead when scared!

If there is an opossum in the backyard, don't worry. They aren’t a threat, and more than likely, they will be moving on in a short while. The best way to keep them from visiting is to have tight-fitting lids on garbage cans, not to leave any pet food outside overnight, and to remember to pick up any fruit that has fallen from trees.

But far from being a nuisance, opossums can benefit your garden by eating snails, slugs, insects, and sometimes even small rodents. They’ll even clean up spilled garbage and fruit that has fallen off trees.

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The best way to keep opossums from denning under a deck or patio is to make sure they cannot get there in the first place by keeping any holes filled.

If you suspect a mother opossum has already moved in, wait until she leaves her den (two hours after dark is generally a safe time). Then, loosely close the opening with netting, straw, or other fibrous material. This will ensure that an animal trapped inside can clear the path to escape, but one outside will not disturb the blockage to get back in.

Opossum moms take their kids wherever they go, so there is not much chance that any babies will be left behind. But always check for youngsters before closing the opening. If the hole has not been disturbed for two or three nights, it’s safe to assume that no one is inside and the hole can be properly filled. For permanent exclusion, we recommend putting in an "L" footer.

Now and then, an opossum will get into a house through a pet door. Encourage them to leave by closing the doors to all rooms and opening the doors to the outside. Possums are usually not aggressive, so you may be able to help them on their way by gently nudging them with a broom.


People often mistake opossums' open-mouth hissing and drooling behavior as a sign of rabies. However, this is just a bluffing behavior that opossums use as a defense mechanism. Rabies is extremely rare in opossums, perhaps because they have a much lower body temperature than other warm-blooded animals.


The below informational links are not identical to each other. Please search each one for a small mammal rehabilitator nearest you.