The opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is common throughout Missouri, including in urban and suburban areas. Although they rarely cause significant damage, they can become a nuisance near homes where they may get into garbage, bird feeders, or pet food. They also occasionally kill poultry.
The Wildlife Code of Missouri classifies the opossum as a furbearer and game mammal that may be taken during prescribed hunting and trapping seasons. See current regulations for details. The Code also specifies that you may shoot or trap damage-causing opossums without a permit. Refer to 3 CSR 10-4.130 Owner May Protect Property; Public Safety of the Code for details and restrictions.
Prevent nuisance animals from entering or taking refuge under buildings by closing any openings. Use wire mesh to secure pens that house poultry. Prevent opossums from climbing over wire mesh fences by installing a tightly stretched electric fence wire near the top of the fence 3 inches out from the mesh. For details, see The Electric Scarecrow under Related Information below. Deter opossums by making pet food, garbage, and animal feed unavailable. Store garbage, birdseed, and animal feed in metal or tough plastic containers with tight-fitting lids, or secure lids with bungee cords.
These are not recommended because none are known to be effective. Mothballs, in particular, are not effective. The naphthalene they contain is toxic, and the vapor harmful to humans.
Cage-type traps are effective and easy to use. Place where opossum are active and bait with cheese, slightly spoiled meat, or fish. Consider using fruit for bait to avoid capturing neighborhood cats.
Body-gripping traps are not allowed for dry-land sets in Missouri but may be set 6 feet or more above ground, such as in an attic. Foot-hold traps are also effective. Both traps require special skill and experience and restrictions on use apply. See current regulations for details. If these traps are needed, the local county conservation agent can likely provide the name of a local trapper who can assist you. Browse our contact database to find your county agent. In some situations, the Department wildlife damage biologist can provide instruction, equipment, and assistance.
Opossums can be shot with conventional firearms, usually a rimfire. Check with local authorities regarding firearms use. Taken during the prescribed season, many people enjoy baking and eating opossum.