The opossum is the largest order of marsupials in the Western Hemisphere, and the only marsupial found in North America above Mexico. Commonly found in our region of the United States, the Virginia Opossum is native to both North Carolina and Virginia. Roughly the size of a domesticated cat, opossums are characterized by a long, hairless tail and approximately 50 teeth – more than any other mammal in North America.



Opossums are often seen in cities and towns rummaging through trashcans, or as roadkill. Adept at surviving in most environments, opossums are most commonly found in areas with the highest density of food. Opossums are opportunistic feeders, eating anything that is readily digestible from grains, fruits and insects, to worms, snakes, and small rodents. Opossums typically live in a den, but sometimes will take over abandoned squirrel nests that can provide shelter.



Opossums are primarily nocturnal. Their most common interaction with humans is when they are hit by cars. In fact, more opossums are killed by cars than by hunters and trappers. Opossums have a breeding season that stretches from January (sometimes December) through October with most opossums having two litters. The average litter size is between four and seven. As a marsupial, baby opossums live in their mother’s pouch for roughly 100 days before leaving on their own.

Opossums are perhaps best known for pretending to be dead, or “playing possum.” When approached by a predator, an opossum will try to scare the potential threat away, but when danger is imminent opossums will fake their death in order to survive. An opossum will lie on its side, its heart rate and breathing will drop, and a foul odor will be emitted. When danger has passed, the opossum will regain consciousness, but this can sometimes take up to six hours.

Accustomed to densely populated areas, opossums are known to take up residence in sheds, under decks, or even in an attic or crawlspace of a home. At night, opossums will forage through trashcans and in yards to find food while sleeping during the day.


Damage caused by Opossums

Opossums are skilled climbers, and can easily gain access to a home through vents, utility conduits, and gaps around a roof or foundation. Inside a home, opossums produce a large amount of waste – the smell from the fecal matter and urine can quickly consume a room or even a whole house. Opossums can also cause extensive damage to ducting systems in attics or crawlspaces, and often damage insulation that they use for nesting.

Due to their relatively large size and short lifespan, it’s not unusual for an opossum to die indoors. A dead opossum can attract fleas and flying insects, as well as other wildlife. The smell from a dead opossum can make a home or business untenable until the situation is resolved.


Terminix Opossum Control and Removal

The most important step to getting rid of opossums in a structure is to do a thorough inspection.   Opossums commonly inhabit crawlspaces, attics, sheds, and decks. A proper inspection will reveal potential entry points as well as any areas that have been damaged by opossums, including ductwork and insulation.

At Terminix we have a multi-tiered approach:

  • Locate opossum entry and exit points, and place traps in a manner where the opossum will be caught without causing more damage to your home
  • After the removal of opossum, permanently seal off all entry points to prevent against future re-entry
  • Work with homeowners to remove conditions that could be conducive for opossums – excess yard debris, easy access to food, potential shelters, etc.
  • Disinfect and clean all areas of the structure contaminated opossums, including the removal and replacement of insulation
  • Perform routine inspections and maintenance on an annual basis to ensure no future problems


Call Terminix today at 1-800-BUGS-911 to schedule a free opossum inspection.