Gardening for Wildlife forum: Possum Quandary

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Name: Kim
Iowa (Zone 5a)
I kill ornamentals... on purpose.
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Chillybean
Oct 27, 2015 10:38 AM CST
We have been very tolerant of critters around and have watched their populations rise and fall naturally. We recently learned a possum has returned. I was thinking YAY, a tick eater (when the ticks are active, they're dormant now). The others are not as thrilled.

We are raising chickens and rabbits; the others are concerned about the rabbits because they can smell possum and become stressed. This possum has taken up residence under the porch, chewing through the plastic lattice and digging under there.

My husband wants to trap and relocate it across the river. I heard this is not usually good for them because you are moving the animal into another possum's territory.

A friend who raises rabbits took care of a possum (not relocating) because it got in the building he keeps the rabbits and it was trying to pull baby rabbits out of the cage to feed its own young. Our rabbit building seems secure overall, except it doesn't have a concrete foundation. Wish we had thought of that. I had no idea possums dig.

Do you have any suggestions for keeping the possum out of the rabbit building, so that relocation is not needed? The chicken building is good and tight, so I am not worried about that, really.

We have bird feeders and in the platforms I usually only put out a day's worth and so far, it's left the hanging suet alone. I may need to bring that in unless I want to feed my homemade, organic suet to the possums. Smiling I suspect as it gets colder, the possum may try our bird food.
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Oct 27, 2015 6:45 PM CST
Would it be possible to establish some sort of alternate possum area that caters to their needs/wants better than your rabbit house? Just a thought. I have possums, but usually only see them as roadkill, haven't noticed any bothering my chickens. I do have sporadic conflicts with either coons or possums and my cat food, which we keep in a plastic container in an open barn. Wiley critters, both of them! I wonder if the change of season is bringing them closer to civilization? I just had my cat food raided twice in the same number of days (opening the bin, emptying it out, licking the corners clean). They apparently are not too interested in chicken grain or scratch - both of those are open sacks right next to the cat food. I may be supporting my local mouse population, but haven't noticed droppings in the grain so perhaps the cats are actually doing their job.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Kim
Iowa (Zone 5a)
I kill ornamentals... on purpose.
Enjoys or suffers cold winters Spiders! Critters Allowed Birds Houseplants I helped beta test the first seed swap
Region: Nebraska Keeper of Poultry Rabbit Keeper Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Procrastinator Garden Ideas: Level 2
Chillybean
Nov 10, 2015 1:14 PM CST
So far, they (There are two, or were; likely a mom and her young, based on size difference) have stayed away from the rabbit building. A friend suggested putting hardware cloth into the ground about a foot. This is in the process of being done.

A few days after writing the original post, we had a Great Horned Owl on our property. He has come several times since than. Yesterday, he tried roosting in one of our trees, but the Blue Jays and Kestrel found him and made all kinds of noise, scaring him off. Maybe he got one of the possums, it's hard to say, but we are aware one is still around. Last night I heard the female call, so I believe Mr. Owl found his mate.

Someone in another thread here mentioned possums keep mice away. I don't know how, but if they do, that's another benefit for having possums here. Smiling
Name: Kim
Iowa (Zone 5a)
I kill ornamentals... on purpose.
Enjoys or suffers cold winters Spiders! Critters Allowed Birds Houseplants I helped beta test the first seed swap
Region: Nebraska Keeper of Poultry Rabbit Keeper Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Procrastinator Garden Ideas: Level 2
Chillybean
Nov 22, 2015 2:07 PM CST
I've updated in my blog, but thought to put something here, too.

Here is a possum track. Looks cute, now I just need to get a photo of the critter itself. :D
Thumb of 2015-11-22/Chillybean/0efe43

We believe we are down to one; we've not seen the two together in awhile. It still sleeps under our porch. When I saw the tracks, I have to wonder if it did not like the snow because it went out, but then turned around and went back in. When I took fruit and veggies out to the chickens I set an orange half out for the possum. It was still there this morning. Other than the missing leftover bird seed on the porch, I've not seen evidence of the possum eating in the bird area.

Texas (Zone 8a)
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GrammaChar
Apr 26, 2016 12:32 PM CST
Since I don't have any chickens or bunnies, I can offer no possum advice about those. Once in a while a possum will wander through the property, and they usually don't bother me or the bird feeders (which are hung high on wires). What DOES bother me is those times the dog spots one up in the tree and proceeds to engage in a bark fest that can go on for hours. The possum will calmly stare down, totally unperturbed. When my patience is at an end, I'll go out and throw a rock at the possum. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. My aim isn't all that good. I've learned over time that possums are not easily intimidated.
Hope all of your animals are okay.

Thumb of 2016-04-26/GrammaChar/3aa2ab

GrammaChar
Name: June
Rosemont, Ont. (Zone 4a)
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JuneOntario
Apr 26, 2016 4:29 PM CST
@GrammaChar Please tell me you are joking about throwing rocks at treed possums! Blinking If you remove the barking dog from the area, the possum can climb down from the tree and go on its way unharmed. No missiles required.
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
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wildflowers
Apr 26, 2016 4:42 PM CST
Wow, GrammaChar, that is a huge possum. I have chickens but I also have Multiple dogs that keep most of the wildlife from coming close to the house.

I've seen possums "Playing Possum" after the dogs back them in a corner. The problem with them is that they are very dirty creatures. It was years ago now but I will never forget the time a homicide detective friend came to visit and a possum showed up. He told how when they find anything dead in the woods, it's common to find a possum eating from the rear end of the body. Blinking Blinking
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Texas (Zone 8a)
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GrammaChar
Apr 26, 2016 5:07 PM CST
JuneOntario said:@GrammaChar Please tell me you are joking about throwing rocks at treed possums! Blinking If you remove the barking dog from the area, the possum can climb down from the tree and go on its way unharmed. No missiles required.


No joke. Evidently you've never tried to "remove the barking dog" who weighs 130 pounds and is attempting to climb the tree while systematically trampling the flower bed beneath it. So yeah, I've thrown rocks - with the dog dancing around and cheering me on - hoping the possum would move along to the NEXT tree in the woods and escape over the fence line. It's not like the possum was "stranded". In fact, it's almost as if he was enjoying the whole spectacle. I could almost see his evil grin.
nodding
GrammaChar
Texas (Zone 8a)
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GrammaChar
Apr 26, 2016 5:11 PM CST
wildflowers said:Wow, GrammaChar, that is a huge possum. I have chickens but I also have Multiple dogs that keep most of the wildlife from coming close to the house.

I've seen possums "Playing Possum" after the dogs back them in a corner. The problem with them is that they are very dirty creatures. It was years ago now but I will never forget the time a homicide detective friend came to visit and a possum showed up. He told how when they find anything dead in the woods, it's common to find a possum eating from the rear end of the body. Blinking Blinking


One word: YUCK! But you're right, they ARE dirty. Think I read somewhere that some of them carry leprosy.
And they hiss.

GrammaChar
Name: June
Rosemont, Ont. (Zone 4a)
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JuneOntario
Apr 26, 2016 6:22 PM CST
I'm relieved to hear that rock-throwing is just a ploy to move the possum to a further tree, and no harm is intended. But! Possums are getting bad-mouthed in this thread. In their defense let me say: they have a place in nature, and they eat stuff that would otherwise just sit and get stinky. Eating from the rear is what scavengers without large teeth have to do if the hide on the dead item they have found is too tough for them to bite through - it has nothing to do with a preference for "dirt".

Wild animals occasionally catch diseases, as do domestic animals if they are not vaccinated, so it's important not to touch any animal that looks sick (for example: drooling, eyes watering, staggering, moving too slowly, or not showing fear) and keep your pets away from it too. Leprosy in possums I doubt - what would they catch it from? Canine distemper is a possibility, though.

When possums are frightened, they hiss, growl, or play dead to defend themselves. This is reasonable. A cornered cat will hiss, a cornered raccoon will snarl, a cornered skunk will spray, a cornered mouse will bite, they all just want you to go away and not hurt them.
Name: Linda
Medina Co., TX (Zone 8a)
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LindaTX8
Apr 26, 2016 8:17 PM CST

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Armadillos can carry leprosy, but I'm pretty sure possums can't.
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. E. B.White
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Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Apr 26, 2016 8:21 PM CST
And if your aim is anything like mine, the possum is in no danger.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Apr 26, 2016 8:31 PM CST
I get possums visiting but they don't ever stay around our house. We have motion detector lights that flash on and that (I think) really disconcerts them, as they like scavenging in the dark.

If one is particularly persistent, I've sprayed it with the hose which really scares the B's out of them but doesn't hurt them at all. This works for raccoons, too but they are much more persistent and less afraid of the lights, especially when the mango tree has fruit.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: June
Rosemont, Ont. (Zone 4a)
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JuneOntario
Apr 27, 2016 6:44 AM CST
@LindaTX8 , I Googled 'leprosy in America' and learned that armadillos apparently caught the disease from humans about 500 years ago and now they're giving it back! Luckily for us, armadillos are the ONLY animal that can carry leprosy. The possums are off the hook on this one.
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
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wildflowers
Apr 27, 2016 7:09 AM CST
All of nature has its place. June, I wasn't "bad mouthing" the possum, just some known facts. We can all make our own judgment as to which of natures creatures we want to be in contact with.

Edit to further explain. I have chickens that we raise for fresh eggs. My thought was that I wouldn't want to encourage them to eat where my chickens eat, or eat their feed. But I realize that's just me.

Okay, that's all I will say about this. I don't do thread conflict and not interesting in a battle of words or opinions.
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

[Last edited by wildflowers - Apr 27, 2016 7:21 AM (+)]
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GrammaChar
Apr 27, 2016 7:20 AM CST
My mistake about the leprosy remark. I stand corrected.
GrammaChar
Name: June
Rosemont, Ont. (Zone 4a)
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JuneOntario
Apr 27, 2016 11:54 AM CST
@wildflowers and @GrammyChar , thank you for your posts. I don't like thread conflict either, and I understand that we're looking at possums from different viewpoints. Here in Ontario they are a rare animal that I'd like to see more often, but you maybe have too many of them. Since I think that they will eat bird eggs and nestlings, you certainly wouldn't want them around your chickens. I promise to shut up now.
Name: Morgan
IL (Zone 5b)
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molanic
Apr 28, 2016 9:12 AM CST
@GrammaChar, maybe you were thinking of leptospirosis instead leprosy since they sound similar. I think opossums and raccoons are common carriers around here of strains that can pass to humans and our pets. The topic came up a few times over the years at the vets when we had dogs with impaired kidney function.
http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+2102&aid=454

We get some raccoons, opossums, and skunks here in the burbs. For the most part they don't cause too many problems for me and I am glad to have them. I bring bird feeders in at night, and try to wash our garden produce very well. When we had dogs and they had to go out after dark I would loudly bang on the door first and then wait a minute before taking them out on leash to do their business. Having to bathe skunked dogs a handful of times has made me overly cautious. Once we called a wildlife trapper to come trap and euthanize an obviously sick skunk that was wandering the yard all day having seizures and spraying. The trapper said it most likely had distemper. Thankfully our dogs were vaccinated for that.

I have also heard about burying the strong hardware cloth all around the base of sheds and other buildings you don't want them tunneling under.
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
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Frillylily
Apr 28, 2016 9:25 AM CST
molanic said:@GrammaChar, maybe you were thinking of leptospirosis instead leprosy since they sound similar. I think opossums and raccoons are common carriers around here of strains that can pass to humans and our pets. The topic came up a few times over the years at the vets when we had dogs with impaired kidney function.
http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+2102&aid=454

We get some raccoons, opossums, and skunks here in the burbs. For the most part they don't cause too many problems for me and I am glad to have them. I bring bird feeders in at night, and try to wash our garden produce very well. When we had dogs and they had to go out after dark I would loudly bang on the door first and then wait a minute before taking them out on leash to do their business. Having to bathe skunked dogs a handful of times has made me overly cautious. Once we called a wildlife trapper to come trap and euthanize an obviously sick skunk that was wandering the yard all day having seizures and spraying. The trapper said it most likely had distemper. Thankfully our dogs were vaccinated for that.

I have also heard about burying the strong hardware cloth all around the base of sheds and other buildings you don't want them tunneling under.


obviously sick animals wondering around w seizures, drooling, dizziness, shortness of breath, not scared of you-usually because they have not got fully functioning awareness... are clearly suffering, in my opinion MORE often from people poisoning them, than from disease. We had a critter here that acted like that and found it dead the next day. I am 110% certain my neighbor poisoned it. He poisons lots of stuff Sad I think the 'animals have diseases' thing is WAY over played, nonsense and I don't buy into it...
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
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Frillylily
Apr 28, 2016 9:28 AM CST
Kim, I guess I just don't understand your question. If your rabbits are caged, on proper sized wire for them (which should be quite small btw) how would a possum get the babies out? Shrug!

Maybe dig down around your building and lay concrete blocks? Do you mean your building has dirt floor? Pics, we need pics...

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