David from California contacted me for help. He owned no pets, but his house had a flea infestation. He had an exterminator come and spray for fleas, but it didn't help. The exterminator also set mouse traps in response to David's complaint of attic noises at night. No luck. Fleas returned immediately and the noises grew while the traps remained empty. He went so far as to have his property fenced at a cost of well over $1000. It was a quality fence, but didn't seem to help. Fleas and noise continued, eventually followed by a strong, nauseating smell.
I suspected opossum in the attic: loud noises between 4 and 5am, thuds, scratching noises like claws dragging, and, of course, the fleas. But what to do about it? How can David control this animal problem when so many attempts had failed? And, what can you do about a similar problem?
First, you need to know a little about these animals. Opossums are odd looking marsupials that have become quite widespread in the United States. They are not rodents, or even closely related to rats, although they resemble them because of their sharp nose and hairless tail. They are more closely related to kangaroos and koalas and have pouches for their young. In habit, they are similar to raccoons and share a raccoon's destructive habits.
Some people think they are dumb animals, perhaps because of their odd appearance, short life span (average 3 years) and tendency to "play dead" when threatened. If they were dumb, they would be much easier to control, just ask David. Because of their clever ways, abundance, and persistence, professional help is usually needed to completely control possums. Once they have taken up residence, you will have significant troubles. In addition to noise, fleas and smell, as mentioned above, other problems will arise. To control pest animals, you must consider all their needs and how they will try to meet them on your property: food, reproduction, nesting habits, range, routines. You must make your property unappealing, uncomfortable and inaccessible.
First, these animals are quite resourceful and will eat nearly anything: insects, carrion, berries, grass, pet food and even small rodents, like mice. Therefore, readily available food is a common source of problems. This food can range from trash or bird feeder waste to household garbage in trash cans or even lawn grubs and other insects. Wildlife control professionals, like us, can identify possible food sources when we make our onsite inspection.
Second, they need shelter for rest and for bearing and raising young. A female will have two litters a year, with more than 10 young per litter. She will take up residence in your attic, basement, garage, shed, barn or anywhere else that she thinks is warm, safe and near food. David's fencing solution didn't work because he didn't realize, and no one told him, that opossum are excellent climbers. They don't have to go under a fence; they can easily go over it. Fences actually enhance access when they are near trees, climbing vines, or low-hanging roof lines. Of course, they don't always go up to attics, they also go lower down to basements, crawl spaces and under porches and decks. They don't usually dig holes or any great size, but take advantage of holes that are already present. Animals can get through surprisingly small holes. While an opossum is about the size of a house cat, it can fit through holes less than 3 inches in diameter. A control plan must include repair and maintenance of the structure they have chosen to call home. As professionals, we can help you with this, also.
You may hear advice on getting rid of problem animals that include fencing (It didn't do David any good), poisoning (do you want a dead animal in your attic?), and shooting (generally illegal). Your best idea is to call a professional. We can help get the animal out, prevent it getting back in, and clean up the mess (droppings, etc). Do not wait and hope the problem will correct itself. Opossum and other pest wildlife damage homes and other property. A licensed, insured professional can diagnose your animal problem, humanely remove and relocate the animal, and perform repair and maintenance to your home to make sure the animal doesn't return. Call us for help and an on-site inspection.