What to do with opossums?

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JENNIE McKEON @JennieMnwfdn

NAVARRE — Kim Hunt enjoys the wildlife that stop by her home along East Bay. Sometimes she spots an osprey or hawk. “Tons of squirrels” come in and out of her yard.

But there’s one guest that’s not particularly welcome.

For the past six months or so, Hunt has been carefully working to avoid a large opossum and her baby that live under her neighbor’s shed.

“I see the possum hanging in my trees,” she said. “We’re tried putting up a new fence. … I just wish they’d go away.”

Hunt’s primary concern is for her two dachshunds. She doesn’t let them go out in the yard alone anymore. She fears the opossum will attack her small dogs or bite her.

“I’m not a fan of possums,” she said.

Opossums make regular appearances on the Emerald Coast. The Internet was inundated in December after an opossum was found “drunk as a skunk” on bourbon in a Cash’s liquor store. At the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge you can also visit Dobby, a hairless opossum who became social media star in his own right.

Shelby Proie, a wildlife technician at the refuge, said there are ways to live in harmony. In fact, opossums are a preferred backyard guest.

“They love to eat insects such as ticks and cockroaches, so they decrease the chance of lyme disease,” she said. “Possums have low body temperature so it’s extremely rare for them to have rabies. They’re not much of a public health threat. They’re mostly scared of a lot of things.”

And as for opossums attacking a dog? They’re only defense is “open their mouth, drool and fall over,” Proie said.

Last weekend, Hunt noticed the momma opossum perched on the fence for 45 minutes. One one side of the fence were Hunt’s barking dachshunds and on the other were her neighbor’s four larger breed dogs. The opossum was stuck.

“He looked scared to death,” she said.

She took to the Concerned Citizens of Navarre Facebook group for suggestions. Some gave answers like “bow and arrow” or “fire up the grill.” One suggested she lean a ladder against the fence for the opossum to climb down. Another said to throw a towel over its head to calm it down if she was going to free it.

Although Hunt is no fan of her yard invaders, she did say she felt sorry for the opossum. She said she doesn’t have the heart to see it get trapped by animal control.

But organizations such as Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission don’t remove wildlife such as opossums unless they are sick or injured. 

As with bears or raccoons, a good defense for unwanted opossums to is to not let them get comfortable, said Proie. Make sure no food is left out, including bird feeders, and clear out dead plants or crumbling infrastructure they can hide in.

“Opossums are nocturnal animals, so you can also try a motion light or sound machine to keep them out of the yard,” Proie said.

And it may be unconventional or gross, but Proie also suggests that male, human urine can be a good detractor for wildlife.

If you run out of ideas, you can always call the refuge at 650-1880 for more tips.

“We’re always happy to offer suggestions to people to better coexist with wildlife,” she said.



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