Opossums in the Garden: The Pros and Cons

Opossums in the Garden: The Pros and Cons

Do you need opossums in the garden? People aren’t the only ones drawn to the tasty fruits and veggies you grow. Gardens can draw in all types of critters.

But one of the most common visitors here in North Carolina Growing Zone 7B is the Virginia Opossum. Yet, there are some major benefits to having possums in your garden.

What Are Opossums?

Opossums are about the size of a cat.
Opossums are about the size of a cat.

Opossums are nocturnal, solitary marsupials. Also called possums, they’re omnivorous scavengers who often inhabit the abandoned dens of other animals. Possums are slow-moving and timid and prefer to play dead or hiss rather than attack.

Therefore, they don’t pose much of a physical risk to pets or people unless they’re cornered and have no other option.

In spite of their controversial appearance, you might be surprised to find out that there are some positives to having possums around! 

The Good: Benefits of Possums in the Garden

1. Opossums Provide Organic Pest Control

They are an excellent source of organic pest control! Opossums eat garden pests like:

  • Snails
  • Mice
  • Beetles
  • Slugs
  • Fire ants

Because of this, you may notice fewer infestations and insect damage to your plants.

Are possums cute? I honestly can't tell.
Are possums cute? I honestly can’t tell.

2. Possums Eat Ticks

The cats get along with the possums, and appreciate the lack of ticks.
The cats get along with the possums and appreciate the lack of ticks.

Possums get rid of ticks organically. They groom themselves frequently and can eat as much as 95% of the ticks they find.

Researchers estimate that a single opossum can eat as many as 90 ticks in a single night or 5000 ticks in one season!

3. Opossums Clean Up Gardens

These little critters act like clean-up crews. Possums love eating rotten fruit, trash, and dead animals. They even eat roadkill!

Also, rotting fruit can be a breeding ground for diseases that may spread to your plants. So, opossums can help keep your garden healthy.

4. Possums Eat Snakes

Possums keep snake populations down. Possums have a natural resistance to many snake venoms, and as a result, will happily eat venomous snakes.

They’ve even been known to chow down on copperheads and rattlesnakes!

Now that we’ve talked about the good, it’s time to dive into the bad.

The Bad: Downsides of Having Opossums in the Garden

1. Possums Carry Fleas

They’re a potential host for fleas and diseases that may put other animals at risk. Even though they can carry diseases, one you don’t have to worry about is rabies. An opossum’s body temperature is too low for the virus to take hold!

Opossums in the Garden: Although they look scary, the hissing is just for show.
Although they look scary, the hissing is just for show.

2. Opossums Eat Fresh Produce

Although they prefer fallen, rotted fruit, opossums may also eat your still growing produce. For some reason, the possums in our garden love digging into our young eggplants.

Botanical Interests Gifts for Gardeners

Furthermore, they can also damage the plants in an attempt to reach the food.

3. Possums Eat Beneficial Insects

Since they aren’t picky eaters, possums don’t discriminate. They’ll eat any bug they come across, even ones that help your garden flourish.

4. Opossums Are Annoying

They can be noisy and make a mess. Opossums are clumsy and may knock over everything in their path in their search for food. We can always tell when possums get into the farm cat’s food. They knock food, water and bowls everywhere!

Opossums in the Garden: Caught this little guy eating our cat's food.
Caught this little guy eating our cat’s food.

How to Discourage Opossums in the Garden

Not impressed with the benefits of possums? Prefer to keep them out of your garden?

Completely understandable. If that’s the case, here are a few easy steps you can take to control possums in your garden:

  • Pick overripe fruit instead of letting it fall to the ground
  • Pick up fallen fruit often
  • Fence in your garden
  • Keep trash, compost, pet food and water in well-secured containers out of reach
  • Use a motion-activated light to scare off the nocturnal creatures

Do You Have Opossums in the Garden?

While I wouldn’t recommend intentionally inviting opossums into your garden, they do bring some benefits with them when they come!

So, what do you think? Would you want a few opossums in the garden?

Let us know in the comments below. Or join our Facebook Group and share your possum experiences with our community there.

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