Tug-O-War With a Possum in the Attic

Possum in Attic


02.13.2005 - This customer was hearing noises in his attic every night.  He figured that it was a wild animal, and thus called me.  I asked the usual questions about the noises - time of day, volume, amount of scratching, amount of running, etc.  From his answers, I suspected an opossum.  Rats tend to scurry very fast through the attic and walls, and scratch.  Same for squirrels, minus the walls, but squirrels are active during the daytime, rather than the night.  Heavier, slower noises at night most likely means raccoon or opossum, and the lack of vocal noises indicated opossum.  Also, the customer described slow creeping noises, and that's more like the slow opossum, rather than raccoon.

I arrived at the house, put on my headlamp and dust mask, and jumped up into the attic.  Sure enough, I saw all kinds of possum sign - from tracks to droppings and even nesting material.  Raccoons don't bring in nesting material.  Most of the time I set special trapping systems at the entry/exit holes into the attic, but in this case, my attic inspection yielded an animal sighting.

I lunged after the opossum, and it took off like a flash!  A very slow flash, but as I was inhibited by attic beams, I wasn't able to gain much ground.  Finally I caught up with it and it ran up one of the attic beams, which of course led to nowhere.  Opossums aren't very bright.  I grabbed it by the tail, ready to drop it into the holding cage I'd brought with me, but no, it clung to the beam for dear life.  I played a little game of tug-o-war for a while, and even took this photo while doing so.

Eventually, my superior tenacity and patience won out, and the opossum let go of the beam and I put it in the cage and brought it out of the attic, much to the homeowner's delight.  He was very impressed, especially since I told him on the phone that I thought it was an opossum, and he said that no, this could not be the case.  I don't know what made him an expert, but interestingly, over half of my customers seem to be experts.

I set traps anyway, just in case their was more than one opossum (there wasn't), and after it was all done, I sealed up the entry holes, cleaned up the possum poop in the attic, and the job was complete.

Do it yourself: Visit my How To Get Rid of Opossums page for tips and advice.
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The opossum, (Didelphis virginiana) is a nocturnal animal that lives in North America. It is a marsupial, which means that the females give birth to tiny young, who grow in a pouch. These young eventually cling to the mother's back and drop off when they are large enough. Opossums are unique for many reasons. They have opposable thumbs, prehensile tails, 50 teeth, and several other unusual features. They are omnivores who eat almost anything, they have excellent immune systems, and they rarely live more than 2-3 years in the wild. They are most commonly considered a nuisance species when they live in an attic or other structure, such as under a shed, or steal pet food or threaten animals.

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Possums are adorable animals with lots of cute qualities; they play dead when they feel threatened or attacked, carry their babies in pouches, and can hang from trees using only their tails. These qualities all seem endearing until they become housemates with you.

Like most pests, they come into your home in search of better living conditions, and they often find your house very comfortable to live in, even to your discomfort. You will find them mostly in the roof or attic. They are very agile climbers and will find their way into your attic, ceiling, or under your deck if they find a small hole to pass through.

The possums often enter your roof to allow their babies to grow in a safe environment or have a warm home in the winter period. These animals are quiet, and so you will seldom hear them in the roof, but their droppings smell, and that could be a problem. They also carry diseases from the wild and can become transmitters of such diseases to you and your pet animals. Because they are omnivores and can eat just about anything, any open food in your house is at risk of contamination. They carry diseases in their fur, and their urine and feces contain a lot of pathogens that can make you sick


It is very easy to detect an opossum infestation because they move at a snail's pace and do not make vocal noises. Most house pests always scurry to avoid getting caught, and raccoons move at a slow pace but are very vocal. So if you hear slow and heavy footsteps in your attic and do not hear any vocal noise, you are most likely dealing with a possum problem. POSSUM REMOVAL FROM YOUR ATTIC

Trapping possums in your attic can be an easy task if you are well kitted and have all the information you need. You can also employ a professional or call the wildlife control center in your area to handle the infestation problem. To handle this problem yourself, here are some helpful guidelines:

  • Study the animal removal laws in your state, as well as relocation rules so that you will not get into trouble with the law.
  • Find and seal all the possible entrance and exit holes except one.
  • Choose a trapping method: the possum is the only pest that will easily walk into a cage in the attic, and this makes your job easy. You can bait the cage with little pieces of snacks and place it in the attic or just outside the exit. Or you can use a snare to pick the adult possum and use your hands to pick up the babies.
  • You can call the wildlife control center to help with the relocation.
  • Seal all holes and repair the damages that the possums have caused in the attic and roof.
Always wear protective clothing when you are handling a possum in your roof or attic. Do not attack a possum or poison it. Those are inhumane and cruel actions.

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