There’s nothing worse than waking up to some backyard damage or your flower and vegetable garden completely destroyed! If it always seems to be when you’re asleep, and it seems to be happening every night – what could be going on? The truth of the matter is that you may have an opossum problem.
Opossums have a strong sense of smell that they use to locate food. You can use this to your advantage by deterring them with scents they dislike around areas they frequent, such as camphor, garlic, onion, hot peppers, molasses, wolf’s urine, ammonia, and pet fur.
If you have opossums getting into your outdoor belongings or have been noticing them coming around quite often – you may need to shield them away with some scents. Keep on reading because today we are talking about the scents that opossums hate and how to use them!
What Are Opossums?
Opossums are the only North American Marsupial – and they have a pouch that carries their babies like a kangaroo! Living the nocturnal lifestyle, possums are commonly seen at night, and although very cute up close, they may scare you if you weren’t expecting one!
Opossums don’t have a good reputation and are commonly put into the category of rats and raccoons. But the truth is – they are the furthest from it and not considered rodents at all.
Opossums are not the animals that will dive into garbage cans, but they will eat any fallen food that hits the ground.
Opossums, in some cases, can be good for your gardens because they love to eat insects, snails, slugs, and even small rodents. They will clean up fallen garbage and debris from fruits. Opossums also love to eat ticks up to 5,000 in a single season!
So why get rid of possums if they’re not doing any harm? Well, we’re getting to that.
Opossum or Possum – Is There A Difference?
I want to address one thing here, technically the terms possum and opossum are correct when referring to these marsupials – but the crazy thing is, although we use possum more in the United States, the American “possum” is actually an opossum – I know, confusing.
In Australia, “opossum” is actually a “possum.” It’s an entirely different species!
So, let’s break this down with some differences.
- Possums (Australia) have furry tails, while opossums (America) have bare tails – like a rat’s tail – like the one we see in the USA!
- The average possum weighs 5 pounds, where the average opossum weighs 7 pounds.
- Opossums have a round face and round body with brown or golden fur, and opossums have gray to white coarse fur with a pointed face.
- Although both marsupials – possums are classified as Diprotodontia and opossums are classified as Didelphimorphia.
- Possums don’t play dead to predators, but opossums do.
Although there are more than 60 species of possums in the world, there is only one type of opossum found in the United States, and it’s called the Virginia Opossum.
Why Are Opossums A Problem?
Opossums can become a problem if they stick around your home. Although opossums have a generally passive personality and aren’t always bad to have around – the problems start to occur when possums don’t leave.
Like any animal – opossums are driven by food. Once they have a safe place to stay, the eating begins. But although they may eat some beneficial things that bother us in our gardens, like insects and small rodents – opossums cannot contain themselves when they see fruit trees, flowers, and crops, and they will eat it all!
Opossums also are driven by the need for shelter and will den wherever it is dry and wherever there is a safe spot hidden from predators.
Opossums become a problem when they decide to den in your decks, sheds, crawl spaces, attics, or any other man-made structures. Opossums will also den where there is a lot of brush and bushes because the thick branches and leaves will help keep them dry and hidden away.
Another problem that possums cause is that they attract predator animals that may be more harmful to humans than the opossum itself. Some predators an opossum may attract include owls, hawks, coyotes, foxes, wolves, and bobcats.
So with all of this in mind, if you’re noticing the start of a possum problem, or maybe you already have one, it’s time to get ahead of the game by deterring and preventing them – and we’re going to tell you how!
8 Scents That Repel Opossums From Your Property
We love possums, and we don’t want to hurt them. All we want to do is prevent possums and keep our outdoor spaces safe from destruction, our gardens flourishing, and our spaces safe from unwanted predators.
To do so, some easy and effective ways to deter possums is by using the scents they hate. With any scent deterrent, be sure to reapply the scent often to keep the smell strong and effective.
Now, just adding, all of the scents we’re discussing will repel BOTH opossums and possums. So no matter where you’re reading, you’re covered!
Camphor Keeps Opossums Away
Camphor, commonly used in vapor rubs, oils, and lotions, is a scent that is hated by opossums. An oil that is extracted from the wood of the camphor trees is used topically as a healing agent.
Although with benefits to humans, the strong methol scent of camphor is widely hated by the possum population and can be used in a paste form on the trunks of trees, roof shingles, and on pavers and blocks to create barriers to deter possums. Camphor overpowers an opossum’s senses and doesn’t signal a food source, leading to them staying away.
To make the paste, mix a few drops of camphor oil such as SVA Organics Camphor Essential Oil with plenty of petroleum jelly and use it to make a shield around the spots that the possums are getting into. Don’t use this paste near crops or gardens.
Opossums Hate Garlic
One of the most loved ingredients to humans is one of the most hated scents by possums. Garlic has such a strong scent that it scares away possums. They will not den near a garlic scent either since they will feel unsafe with the smell.
Using garlic to keep away opossums is an easy addition to any garden. Planting garlic cloves in your garden may be enough to keep opossums from eating your vegetables and flowers. It’s best to use garlic oil to repel opossums as the scent will be stronger and, thus, more effective.
Another way to use garlic would be to mix bits of garlic or minced garlic in water and spray the garlic water mix around your garden, outdoor spaces, and fruit trees. If this doesn’t seem to help, placing minced garlic on small plates in your gardens can do the trick.
Onion Deters Opossums
Another ingredient we love – onions – is hated by opossums. Onions, along with garlic, have such strong scents that it overwhelms a possum’s senses and leaves a bad taste in their mouths.
More so for the taste, onions will deter possums if they’re growing in a garden. With a smell that almost burns the senses, opossums tend to stay away from onions. If you mix garlic and onions together, this creates a double deterrent effect that will be more effective in repelling opossums.
To use onions to deter possums, peel an onion, slice it up, and add slices around your garden and the plants that need the most security. Opossums may try to taste the onion at first, but as soon as they do, they’re sure to get a surprise and not try that again!
Opossums Dislike Hot Peppers And Hot Sauce
Another smell that can burn the senses is hot peppers and hot sauce. These foods are hated by possums everywhere. Not only are the smells overpowering and will send a possum’s senses in disarray, but the taste is also too spicy for our little marsupials.
Using hot peppers, hot sauce, or even cayenne pepper can be an easy way to deter and prevent possums. The capsaicin in hot peppers irritates the sinus of an opossum when they directly smell it and thus, keeps them away.
You can make a spray with hot sauce, dish soap ( to last longer), and water. You can spray this spicy spray directly onto plants and into your garden, around the perimeter of crawl spaces, attics, underneath decks, etc., to keep possums away.
Opossums Hate Molasses
That sweet-smelling, sweet-tasting molasses is hated by possums. Arguably maybe the easiest and quickest way to deter possums, molasses is something we all have in our pantries and can be used – right now.
Grabbing molasses or any syrup in your pantry, mixing it with water until it dissolves, and then spraying it onto plants and garden spaces is an easy way to deter those uninvited possums.
Adding a detergent or dish soap into the mix will help make a thicker spray and will allow the scent to linger for a little longer.
Fox Urine Keeps Opossums Away
I know – how are you getting this? Well, you can easily buy fox urine online to help get rid of opossums – like American Heritage Industries 16 oz Red Fox Urine.
Fox urine works wonders in getting rid of and preventing possums from entering your backyards. Spraying the fox’s urine spray around the perimeter of your home will deter possums altogether because foxes are predators to the opossums.
Why this works so well is because predators mark their territory with their urine. And, if you happen to spray the urine around your outdoor spaces and far enough away from your house, it will act as almost a complete shield from any unwanted visitors.
Using fox urine may attract foxes to your yard, so if you have a chicken coop or small pets, just be wary before trying this method.
Ammonia Keeps Opossums Away
There is no arguing here – we all hate the smell of ammonia. In fact, no one should ever be close enough to the scent to breathe in the fumes of it, and if you are using it, ammonia should always be handled with extreme caution.
However, if you are having a really bad possum problem – ammonia is known as one of the foolproof ways to prevent possums. Mixing ammonia with water, following all product directions, and generously spraying ammonia around garbage cans, sheds, under decks, and crawl spaces can work quickly and effectively in deterring possums.
However – do not spray ammonia on gardens, crops, trees, or anywhere where you have pets or common areas, as it could be hazardous.
Please, consult a professional before this one.
Pet Fur Keeps Opossums Away
Much like fox’s urine, pet fur works to get rid of possums by establishing a predator territory. Although you may think a dog or a cat isn’t the typical possum predator, any scent of any animal can be enough to keep opossums away.
Opossums only stay where they feel safe, and if there is pet fur present – they most likely will feel threatened due to another species in the area.
To add pet fur to your outdoor spaces, collect the hair that your pet has shed, or use the hair that is in the brush after you brush your pet and place it around the perimeter of your outdoor spaces. Pet fur will keep possums and other pests away.
Facts About The Virginia Opossum
Virginia Opossums are the only marsupial in the United States, and although commonly confused with raccoons or rats – the Virginia Opposum is far from that.
Virginia Opossums Are Nocturnal
Opossums are nocturnal, which means they will be up all night long! This is when they can cause the most damage, and if you happen to have them in your attic or on your roof – they can keep you up all night because they will be moving around – a lot!
Opossums Are Scavengers
Opossums are scavengers and will always be looking for food. Whether it’s scraps from the garbage, or the fruits on your fruit trees, or crops from your garden, opossums will get their hands into all types of food.
Virginia Opossums Play Dead As Defense From Predators
Unlike their Australian relatives, the American opossum actually plays dead from predators. Opossums will stay still, will not blink, and will let their tongues hang out to mimic a dead possum. Generally, animals won’t bother with another dead animal and will keep on moving.
They Don’t Hibernate
Believe it or not, opossums do not hibernate and are out and about during the colder months. But rather than always scavenging, possums will remain in their dens for longer periods.
This is the time of year when you find opossums under your decks or in your attics because they will find warmth in those spots and will hang out for a few days at a time until they have to leave to get more food.
Other Ways To Get Rid Of Opossums
Opossum or opossum is like tomayto or tomahto here in America, and although they are actually different, the name is so widely interchangeable that we all kind of got used to it. But either way, if you have a possum or opossum problem and scents are not working, there are some other things you can try.
Remove Food Sources
I know this may be tough, especially if you are growing a garden, but to get rid of opossums, you may need to remove food sources temporarily. Whether it’s by planting your vegetables in a pot or planter box and bringing them indoors or removing the garden for a season – it can be a temporary inconvenience but can solve a big possum problem.
Along with this, keeping your garbage cans tidy can make a huge difference. Securing the lids of the garbage cans down and making sure that all food scraps are in a plastic garbage bag secured in the trash can will help as the smells will be secured, and it won’t attract any possums or other animals.
Scare Opossums with Lights
Being that possums are nocturnal, bright lights will scare them away. Opossums are used to being in the dark; being in light will make them feel unsafe as predators can see them and will actually confuse a possum itself.
Purchasing motion lights or animal deterrent lights like these Thanos Nighttime Animal Deterrent Lights will scare nocturnal animals away.
Remove Debris in Yard
It can be as simple as a bucket that’s been outside too long, woodpiles, wheel barrels upside down, or any type of debris that makes for a dry, sheltered space. These can all become a forever home for a possum.
Making sure the debris from outdoor projects or indoor projects is cleaned up and placed upright in a position that nothing can get underneath it – is the first step in making sure that possums don’t move into your outdoor spaces.
We’ve all seen them around school buildings or in areas with any type of business where land is plentiful; coyote decoys or fox decoys help keep opossums and other pests away.
The whole idea that is associated with these decoys is that they represent predators, and possums that nest and live amongst people for food will stay away from any potential threat.
Opossums like to feel safe, and if they see a coyote, even if it’s fake, they will do a quick 180 – and get out of there! Much like the pet fur, or the wolf’s urine, the decoy presents an actual animal, and it will be hard for a possum to tell if it’s real or not since it won’t get close enough!
That’s A Wrap!
Although opossums aren’t harmful directly, they can cause destruction to your outdoor spaces and can take over areas by nesting. Besides that, opossums attract other animals, and if you can avoid having a possum situation at all – it’s best to prevent them.
To recap, the 8 scents you can use to repel opossums include:
- Hot Peppers
- Wolf’s Urine
- Pet Fur
If you are ever unsure about a possum or find it too much to handle, get help from a professional! Our nationwide pest control finder can get you in contact with a wildlife pro near you.
Remember, possums aren’t out to ruin your day. In fact, they do a lot of good by eating pest insects like ticks and aphids. When you want them out of your yard, consider using your new arsenal of scents and smells to repel them!
Fidino, M. A., Lehrer, E. W., & Magle, S. B. (2016). Habitat Dynamics of the Virginia Opossum in a Highly Urban Landscape. The American Midland Naturalist, 175(2), 155-167.
Krause, W. J., & Krause, W. A. (2006). The Opossum: Its Amazing Story. William Krause
Ladine, T. A., & Kissell, Jr, R. E. (1994, October). Escape Behavior of Virginia Opossums. The American Midland Naturalist, 132(2), 234-238.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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