How to deal with problem Opossum in Massachusetts

Opossum (Possum)


The only native marsupial (mammals with pouches) in North America, opossums are the size of a large house cat. Their fur ranges in color from snow white to jet black, and their tail is nearly hairless and rat-like. They tend to be solitary and nomadic and are primarily nocturnal in activity. When threatened, they bare their teeth, hiss, and/or “play dead.”

They range from Canada to Costa Rica and from the east coast to the great plains, and along the western coast of the United States. They live in a wide range of habitats from woods to brush to open fields, but prefer wet areas near streams and swamps. Opossums are opportunistic feeders and will eat just about anything, such as small animals, plants, worms, amphibians, fruits, vegetables, carrion, and garbage.

Opossums breed 1-2 times per year, producing litters averaging around eight young from late winter through spring and summer. Consider the breeding season when dealing with wildlife in defense of property.

An opossum in your yard should not be a problem, as they are not aggressive or destructive and do not attack or threaten pets or dig burrows. They are beneficial to humans because they feed on many types of insects, like crickets and beetles, as well as on mice and voles. Opossums may get into garbage or pet food left outside and will sometimes raid poultry houses to eat eggs or kill chickens. They will also get into gardens to feed on fruits and vegetables .


Laws and regulations to be aware of

Regulations for Massachusetts

Relocation of Wildlife

No person shall transport any fish or wildlife species in Massachusetts. 

Exceptions to transporting and liberating wildlife in Massachusetts include: (a) Permitted Massachusetts wildlife rehabilitators may transport within Massachusetts and liberate rehabilitated wildlife; (b) a permitted Massachusetts problem animal control agent may liberate problem animals at the site of capture, or may transport within Massachusetts such animals to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or for the purposes of euthanasia.

Killing of Wildlife by Owner or Tenant of Land

Under Mass.General Law 131, Section 37, a property owner or tenant of land may hunt or take by other means, except by poison or snare, any mammal which he finds damaging his property, provided that such killing is not contrary to any federal law or regulation.  Animals killed under this law, must be reported to authorities within 24 hours.

Trap Types Restricted in Massachusetts

A person shall not use, set, place, maintain, manufacture or possess any trap for the purpose of capturing furbearing mammals, except for common type mouse and rat traps, nets, and box or cage type traps, as otherwise permitted by law. A box or cage type trap is one that confines the whole animal without grasping any part of the animal, including Hancock or Bailey's type live trap for beavers. Other than nets and common type mouse or rat traps, traps designed to capture and hold a furbearing mammal by gripping the mammal's body, or body part are prohibited, including steel jaw leghold traps, padded leghold traps, and snares.

Firearm Discharge

A person shall not discharge any firearm or release any arrow upon or across any state or hard surfaced highway, or within one hundred and fifty feet, of any such highway, or possess a loaded firearm or hunt by any means within five hundred feet of any dwelling in use, except as authorized by the owner or occupant thereof.

Legal, Regulated Trapping

The use of legal, regulated, trapping by licensed trappers can be useful for reducing local wildlife populations and can help reduce nuisance problems in Massachusetts.

While we attempt to provide guidance about state and federal regulations pertaining to specific species and control techniques, we do not provide information about local jurisdictions (city, town, county, etc.) where regulations may be more restrictive, especially as it applies to discharge of firearms, transport of animals or use of trapping equipment. Contact your local city or county government to inquire further. No guarantee is made that information (or lack of information) associated with a species or control technique is completely accurate or current. You should become familiar with federal, state and local laws before beginning any wildlife control activities.