Opossums are nocturnal and prefer to travel around using as much concealment as possible. If you have a yard, plant shrubs whose foliage and limbs hang low to the ground, providing cover and yet enough room for the opossum to maneuver underneath them. Planting bushes, trees and vines next to your fence will give the opossum ample ability to climb down into your yard for a visit. Once your trees mature, allow some branches with leaves to hang down upon the fence, which will become the opossum’s highway along its nightly route visiting different yards.
If you have a mostly cement yard, you can have large potted plants with trellises, again providing the opossum a method to climb down into your yard and hiding places behind the potted plants as they explore your yard.
If you have large acreage, the opossum will again use tall grass or small ravines to move about your property searching for food. If you wish them to visit your property more often, planting a series of low-lying brush clumps, spaced 15-20 feet apart for them to use for travel, without having such an open, exposed area to travel.
They don’t linger out in the open, they will mainly move from plant to structure, having cover on at least one side. During February, the mating season, the males will wander further searching for a mate, crossing roads and other open expanses, sometimes resulting in their demise. Later in March, the carcasses of females who couldn’t cross the road fast enough with their load of babies in the pouch will be the ones found in the road.
You will have to have a food source to attract opossums. Planting gardens with fruits, vegetables and flowers will attract insects, snail and slugs. Opossums eat insects, snails and slugs. Opossums are also partial to overripe, fallen fruit on the ground. Opossums aren’t the only animals that will be attracted to your food source, other nocturnal animals will become familiar with the goodies to be found at your place. To be fair, you can’t blame the raccoons, skunks, coyotes and feral cats that will come to feed. Rats and mice might also be attracted. Fortunately, they will likely fall prey to the opossum who will also eat them. Dog food, cat food left outside will attract opossums (See Photo at end of article).
Make sure you don’t tell an official that you are putting food out or planting just to attract opossums. Many cities and counties have rules against feeding wildlife. It would be best not to mention it to your neighbors either. Your neighbors will blame YOU for any visitation they might get from wildlife, even though they have probably been crossing through their property for years without their knowledge. It will be YOUR fault their dog barks all night; YOUR fault other neighbors are complaining about their dog(s); YOUR fault if Animal Control comes out to talk to them about their dogs.
Water is precious to all life forms, so leave out a bowl of water near the food. As with bird feeders and bird baths, make sure you keep the feeding area clean and water bowl changed out so that mosquitoes don’t utilize it for laying eggs.
Opossums are transient, staying 2-3 days in the same den site, then moving on. They may keep you in their rotation of den sites if you have a suitable hiding place for them during the day. A large empty, overturned flowerpot, with the large opening facing a fence or edifice will do nicely. Sometimes a large pile of leaves is where they’ll sleep. BBQs, under patio or spa decking, recessed, ground level light structures, behind benches, in log piles, behind anything stacked against the house or in the yard. They may sleep in a tree, or in a thick brush, they are as arboreal as they are terrestrial. They have been found in vehicles parked for a while, or anywhere in your garage they can crawl into and conceal themselves.
Especially to those of you who have acreage, contact your nearest wildlife rehabilitation facility and volunteer your property for release of opossums ready to go back into the wild. Hopefully they will come out and evaluate your property and you can come to an agreement of where, when and how many opossums during a season would be released on your property. Keep in mind, opossums are transient, so they will disperse themselves after they hang around a while. In the meantime, you will have opossums on your property which may, in turn, make the area opossums to stop by and find out why your place is such a popular hangout. Scroll through the donation page on this Humane Society of the United States webpage, locate your state, then call the nearest wildlife rehabilitation facility to you.
Some organizations may ask to release other species on your property. Consider what all species you would allow and be sure to quiz the volunteer on what the needs and habits are of any other species before you decide.
If you have horses stabled nearby and barn cats, be well-versed on Equine Protozoal Myloencephalitis (EPM) and the opossum’s role in passing the parasite. EPM is caused by the parasite Sarcocystis neurona. The life cycle of S. neurona is well described. In order to complete its life cycle this parasite needs two hosts, a definitive and an intermediate. In the laboratory, raccoons, cats, armadillos, skunks, and sea otters have been shown to be intermediate hosts. The opossum is the definitive host of the disease, passing the parasite through feces. Horses contract EPM from contaminated feed or water. There is a drug that can help a horse with the disease in early stage. The best preventative is proper food storage for the horse, so that it’s not used as a toilet by other animals. A short overview is on Wikipedia.
Feral and domestic cats seem to have no problem with being in the same yard or eating out of the same dish as adult opossums. Baby or juvenile opossums just out on their own frequently fall prey to cats. It is a well-trained or rare dog that doesn’t consider an opossum coming into the yard as a violation of their territory. If you are trying to attract opossums into your yard, it’s not fair to the opossum, nor to your dog if the opossum’s presence causes your dog to bark incessantly and you cannot control your dog.
Consider all the above before taking measures to specifically encourage increased wildlife traffic into your yard. Opossums provide a great benefit to both the urban yard; cleaning up destructive bugs and rodents and in the rural yard; scarfing up disease-carrying ticks and rodents. If your property is 15 years or older, there’s probably enough mature foliage/concealment to already have opossum traffic on your property. Enjoy North America’s only native marsupial!