Both possums and raccoons are nocturnal mammals that can scatter your trash and damage your yard. Raccoons have a distinctive black "bandit mask" pattern around their eyes and a black- and brown-banded tail. Possums or opossums are about the size of house cats, with a pointed face and a bare, rat-like tail. Both possums and raccoons are omnivores that feed on both plant and animal materials. You can keep possums and raccoons out of your yard and trash by using various methods.
You should keep your trash out of reach of possums and raccoons by using a trash can with a tight-fitting lid that doesn't open even if it is tipped over. For example, you can place your trash can in a wooden locking hinged box, or use a trash can with a screw-on lid. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln recommends using a metal trash can. If possible, place your trash can inside a building in an area where possums and raccoons can't enter.
You can build a fence around your yard to keep possums and raccoons out. Chicken wire or 1/2-inch mesh hardware cloth buried 6 to 12 inches below ground and extending 2 feet above ground is usually enough to exclude possums. Raccoons are stronger, and you may need a sturdier fence. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln recommends installing a two-strand electric fence with the wires at 4 inches and 12 inches above the ground.
Repellents can temporarily discourage raccoons from feeding on treated items, but there are no registered repellents for possums. Raccoons may still eat treated items, especially in the winter when there is often a short supply of food. Follow the label instructions closely, especially when applying the repellent to items meant for human consumption. Professional wildlife controllers find the urine of male raccoons and coyotes to be effective in getting female and young raccoons to move away, but these products are not registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Sometimes only trapping works to keep possums and raccoons away from your trash and yard. You should use a cage or box trap that measures at least 10 by 10 by 32 inches. Set it where you have previously seen possums and raccoons. Place the trap on level ground so it doesn't accidentally become triggered when the animal enters and the trap wobbles. Use sweet baits, such as honey, marshmallows or molasses, to avoid catching cats and skunks. Make sure you check with your local authorities before using traps, as some municipalities prohibit trapping animals.
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