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The opossum is about the size of a house cat, with gray fur and a bare, pink tail. Although some people think opossums look like large rats, they are actually marsupials – like kangaroos. A mother opossums carries her babies in a pouch on her belly when they’re small, and when they get too big to fit in her pouch she allows them to ride on her back.

Opossums are nocturnal (active at night), but may be seen during the day if they have been disturbed from their hiding place, or if they are sick or injured. They are rarely aggressive. When threatened, they often ‘play possum’, or pretend to be dead. An opossum that appears to be dead should never be handled; it may suddenly wake up and bite or scratch!

Urban and suburban opossums often den under buildings and decks. They can be kept out by making sure crawl space vents are in good repair, closing up other entrances to your crawl space, and using hardware cloth to close areas under decks.

Opossums are omnivores, and will eat almost anything, including fruits and vegetables, insects, small reptiles and mammals, pet food, and garbage. You can help discourage them from visiting  your property by harvesting all fruits and vegetables promptly, keeping garbage and compost in closed containers, and bringing pet food in at night.

If there is no food or shelter on your property, you may see opossums passing through at night but they will not stay.

More information on dealing with nuisance opossums is available from the UC IPM program website.

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