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Opossum Trapping and Removal

Columbia and Aiken, South Carolina Rid-A-Critter Office

Young possum hiding in a roof in North Augusta

Young possum hiding in a roof in North Augusta

If you see an animal that looks as if its parts don't quite match, then more than likely you're looking at an opossum. They have jaws like dogs, ears like Mickey Mouse, hairless tails like rats, feet like tiny humans, and very thick fur that makes them look much more stocky than they actually are. They surely win the award for South Carolina's funniest-looking animal, hands-down.

The opossum's odd features serve important purposes in their natural environment. Opossums are tree-dwellers by nature, but they scavenge for food on the ground. Their feet are ideally adapted for both walking on the ground and climbing trees. They also have prehensile tails that they use to carry things around and as a "fifth leg" when climbing. Young opossums may also hang or swing from tree limbs by their tails, but adult opossums are too heavy to do that. It's kind of like skipping. It's something that only kids can do.

Aside from being funny-looking, opossums are also very interesting animals. For one thing, they're the only marsupials native to North America. Their young are born as little more than embryos after an extremely short gestation, after which they must find their own way from the birth canal to their mothers' pouches. The first 13 that succeed will latch on to a teat and spend the next several months in the pouch doing little other than nursing. The rest will die.

Another thing about opossums that interests scientists is that they rarely get sick. They are remarkably resistant to most bacteria, viruses, and even the venom of all North American snakes except coral snakes.

One would think that as healthy an animal as an opossum would enjoy a long life. But alas, that's not the case. Opossums have very rapid senescence, which basically means that they age rapidly. They die of old age at the age of two or three years, assuming that something else doesn't kill them first. Because they are slow-moving and have poor eyesight, many of them die when they get hit by cars. They're also preyed upon by wolves, foxes, bobcats, raptors, and other predator animals.

Opossums are scavengers by nature and will eat almost anything. In nature, eat carrion, insects, slugs, earthworms, crustaceans, small mammals, fruits, berries, and pretty much anything else. Around human-occupied areas, they're attracted to the smell of garbage in trash cans and dumpsters. A dumpster full of rancid garbage that's been sitting in the hot South Carolina sun for a day or two is like a buffet to a possum.

Opossums and Rabies

Although opossums rarely get ill, most wildlife biologists believe that they're able to "carry" some diseases, meaning that they may be able to harbor the causative pathogens and spread them to other animals without becoming sick themselves. Rabies may be one of those diseases.

The number of confirmed rabies cases in opossums in the United States is very low, however. Usually it's in the single digits in any given year for the whole country. Opossums, therefore, are not considered a significant rabies threat. In addition, a healthy opossum's normal behavior upon being confronted looks a lot like the way many people assume a rabid animal acts; so the fact that an opossum is snarling, hissing, and walking around clumsily doesn't mean that it's rabid. That's all normal for a possum.

The long and short of it is that if you are bitten or scratched by an opossum, you should see a doctor. If safely possible, you should also trap and hold the animal for necropsy. But the chances of contracting rabies from an opossum are considered by public health authorities to be very slight.

Playing Possum

Opossums are perhaps most famous for "playing dead" when they're threatened. But they're not really playing. The death-like state is not a voluntary act on the possum's part. It's something more along the lines of fainting and appears to be beyond the opossum's control.

The scientific name for this death-like state is thanatosis, which derives from thanatos, the Greek word for death. When in thanatosis, the opossum becomes completely unresponsive to all stimuli, assumes a death-like posture with its face frozen in a contorted expression, and even emits a foul-smelling substance that mimics the smell of a rotting carcass. Because most predator animals don't eat rotting flesh, the aggressor animal will usually walk away and leave the opossum alone. A little while later, the opossum comes out of thanatosis and goes about its possum business like nothing happened.

Unfortunately and ironically for opossums, their remarkable ability to mimic death also works against them in the modern world. One of the reasons why so many opossums are killed by cars is that while walking along roads at night scavenging for road kill, opossums, who have poor vision (and don't really grasp the whole concept of vehicles in any case), seem to mistake the sound and headlights of oncoming vehicles for predator animals. Rather than doing something sensible like getting out of the way, they go into thanatosis right there in the middle of the road: And thus in the process of scavenging for road kill, they become road kill themselves.

Opossum Control

Opossum control is accomplished by removing the animal (either by hand or using a trap), sometimes followed by sealing the building so the animal can't get back in. I say "sometimes" because it's not always necessary. Very often opossums get into homes by just walking right on through an open garage door. In those kinds of cases, the only remediation needed is to keep the door closed.

Sometimes, however, opossums get into homes through construction gaps, holes, poorly-fitting basement doors, or missing crawl space vent screens. Because they're tree-dwellers by nature, they can also get in through loose or broken attic vents, fans, broken soffits, and other openings on the roof or upper floors. For that reason, in any case where an opossum gets into a home through anything except an open door, the house needs to be inspected from top to bottom for possible entry points.

Rid-A-Critter provides opossum control and animal-proofing throughout the Columbia and Aiken, South Carolina areas. Please contact us for a consultation if you have a problem with opossums or any other nuisance animals.

Opossum Control Gallery

Here are a few pictures of possum removal work we've done. Hopefully we'll have more soon.


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Chris S. Sent a Video of Opossums Under a Bath Tub
by Webmaster
Jan 29, 2018 10:35:19 am.

These Pictures Prove that Carl Obviously Needs More Animal-Removal Work to Do
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Jan 18, 2018 11:22:59 am.

The Folks Up North May Laugh, but This is a Blizzard in These Parts
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Jan 17, 2018 12:02:41 pm.

The Management and Staff of Rid-A-Critter Wish All of our Customers and Friends a Happy New Year
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Dec 31, 2017 10:16:42 am.

The management, staff, and logo animals of Rid-A-Critter wish all of our customers, suppliers, friends, and site visitors a Merry Christmas
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Dec 22, 2017 11:46:48 am.

Based on This Picture, I Think Justin Has Too Much Time on his Hands
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Dec 12, 2017 09:46:14 am.

New Google+ Post: Hey, How About That Weather?
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Dec 11, 2017 09:56:53 am.

Here's a Video of an Opossum Being Humanely Released
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Dec 05, 2017 10:37:08 am.

Here's an Amusing Picture of a DIY Possum-Proofing Fail
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Nov 30, 2017 10:11:07 am.

The management and staff of Rid-A-Critter wish all of our customers, suppliers, and site visitors a Happy Thanksgiving!
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Here are Tim and Jason at the Georgia Certified Pest Control Operators Convention
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Nov 02, 2017 10:17:29 am.

Just a little Halloween Silliness
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Oct 31, 2017 10:45:32 am.

Here's a Picture of an Opossum Removed from a House in Columbia, South Carolina
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Sep 11, 2017 12:00:09 pm.

Here's a Video of Carl and Chad Watching the Eclipse
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Aug 31, 2017 12:00:44 pm.

Carl Sent this Video Explaining Our Animal-Proofing Work Versus Our Competitor's
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Aug 08, 2017 08:49:01 am.

Chris Sent a Picture of a Male Antheraea polyphemus Silk Moth
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Jul 25, 2017 09:17:40 am.

Here's One of the Main Reasons Why we Don't Use Poisons
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Jul 20, 2017 10:53:22 am.

Carl Found an Opossum Hole in a House in Columbia, South Carolina
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May 22, 2017 12:34:12 pm.

Here's Another Picture of that Baby Opossum on the Hood of Chris's Truck
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May 02, 2017 11:42:57 am.

Chris Sent a Picture of a Baby Opossum Removed from Under a Dishwasher
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May 02, 2017 11:40:32 am.

Here's a Picture of Tim on a Dead Animal Removal Call
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Apr 19, 2017 12:31:42 pm.

Here's a Picture of Tim Talking to Parents at a Career Day Event
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Mar 29, 2017 01:34:01 pm.

Amber Sent a Picture of a Friendly Squirrel that Stopped By for a Visit
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New Google+ Post: Carl's Crew Page Picture
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Jan 19, 2017 12:43:57 pm.

The Columbia, South Carolina office of Rid-A-Critter provides opossum removal and exclusion in the Greater Columbia, South Carolina area, including Aiken, Barnwell, Camden, Columbia, Evans, Greenwood, Lexington, Newberry, North Augusta, Orangeburg, and Sumter.

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