06.15.2006 - First of all, I know that opossum is spelled with one "p", but a lot of internet searchers don't know this, so I decided to spell it with two p's, as
in oppossum, or even opposum, which is also another common misspelling
Regardless, on this day, I removed three dead baby opossums from inside a wall. As usual, I entered a home that had a bad odor. I took a cursory stroll around the home in order to gain a sense of the area of strongest odor. I isolated it to a room or two, then jumped in the attic to look. Most commonly, the dead animal is somewhere in the attic.
I entered the attic, and saw heavy soilage from opossums, in particular, a lot of opossum droppings. However, I did not find any dead opossums in the attic. At this point I sniff down all of the open walls but I often do not have access to all of them, such as was the case here. Thus, I re-entered the home and started sniffing the walls. This can be a tedious process depending on the level of expertise, but I have been doing it for so long that I can pick up on subtle scent cues that I used to miss as a beginner, and narrow the area down quickly. I sniffed back and forth, and found the area with the relevant odor, at the base of a wall inside a closet.
I cut open a hole, and inside I found three juvenile opossums. Opossums leave the mother when quite small, and go exploring. They often stick together, and so most likely, one went down the wall, and two others followed. Once they fell down, they lost access to food and water, and died. I removed all three, and the odor disappeared. The mother must have abandoned the attic, because I never found any further trace of her.
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Opossums very commonly live in attics and baby opossums like to go exploring and can get trapped in walls. You will usually notice the dead baby opossums from the smell.
An opossum is approximately the size of a cat with coarse grayish fur, pointed faces, and hairless, rounded ears. Their snouts are long and pointed and tipped with a distinctive, pink nose. Easily confused with cats, they have five-toed feet. The first toe of each hind foot lacks a claw and is opposable like human thumbs.
Opossums are great climbers because of their opposable thumbs. They like to scavenge around for somewhere to live. The mother opossum will look for somewhere warm and safe to have her babies in the spring and an attic is a great place for her to hide. She carries the babies in her pouch and then as they grow, they cling to the mother's back. They like to drop off and explore and will often fall down cavities from the attic into walls, becoming trapped and eventually will die.
Sometimes the mother opossum will make her nest inside a wall cavity because she can easily climb in and out. You will hear scratching from the opossums and you will be able to smell them even when they are alive.
Dead baby opossums create the foulest odor, which is probably what will have alerted you to the problem. Dead animals in the walls are also breeding grounds for parasites and germs, as well as attracting other creatures to your home. While dead opossums rarely carry rabies, the University of California says that they carry “diseases such as leptospirosis, tuberculosis, relapsing fever, tularemia, spotted fever, toxoplasmosis, coccidiosis, trichomoniasis, and Chagas disease. They may also be infested with fleas, ticks, mites, and lice. Opossum are hosts for cat and dog fleas, especially in urban environments.”
So you really want to get rid of them.
How to get dead baby opossums out of attics and walls
The only way to get dead baby opossums out of a wall is to cut the wall. This is done by following the odor and ascertaining exactly where the dead baby opossums are. Then a hole is cut into the wall so that the dead baby opossums can be removed.
If the dead baby opossums are in the attic, they just have to be found and can be removed by hand.
Opossums create a lot of droppings so you will probably want to have your attic cleaned once the creatures have been removed.