One of NC’s Most Common Household Pests Isn’t What You Think.

The fourth opossum safely captured and released far from this reporter's home. (Photo: Michael McElroy)

By Michael McElroy

March 2, 2023

Opossums might be living in your crawlspace, and they’re bad for your home. Here’s how to humanely remove them.

Quick life tip: If you ever find yourself with a newborn baby and a seemingly endless string of sleepless nights ahead of you, make sure you also take the time to discover a family of opossums living in your crawlspace. 

Because we could all use more challenges in life.  

That may or may not have happened to us – we don’t reveal our sources – but what we can say for sure is that NC’s only native marsupial is also one of its most common household pests. 

Opossums may be great for the world, but they’re not great for your house. 

Opossums are “often misunderstood and maligned by people who don’t realize the many benefits they provide,” the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission says, and, “somewhat like nature’s vacuum cleaners,” they eat lots of ticks, cockroaches, snails, slugs, snakes, mice and rats. 

Yes. But Opossums love crawlspaces, especially the secret and warm spaces in the curves under your tub and shower, and they can pull out your insulation, overturn your trash cans, die and make your house stink, and even give you fleas, whether you have a pet or not.

Thankfully, like the rest of us, they also love donuts. 

So if you are hearing midnight noises under your floor, call a wildlife removal expert, who will guide you through the process of using cages and sweet pastries to humanely find these uninvited guests another place to live. 

Our guy told us we’d probably catch one or two of these new friends.

We caught five in five days. 

In honor of World Wildlife Day, here are some tips on how to humanely shut down any unauthorized hotels opossums may be operating under your house:

  • Are you hearing scritchy scratchy noises under the floor? Is your insulation hanging out of the floor joists? These are good signs of opossums. But maybe they’re just mice? To check, put an open can of tuna in your crawlspace. If hardly any is gone the next morning, you might have mice instead and should call an exterminator. If all of the tuna is gone, or if the can itself is gone, call a wildlife removal expert. 
  • The expert will check your foundation for possible entry points and place a metal cage-style trap near the most likely location. You can bait the trap with donuts, honey buns, marshmallows, birthday cake, sardines, tuna, basically anything sweet or fishy.
  • Make sure you check the trap early in the morning and call the removal service right away. They are required to check it themselves every 24 hours, but it’s good to minimize the time the opossum is stuck there, especially on hot days.
  • The expert will collect the cage and drive the opossum far enough away so they won’t find their way back, then release the animal unharmed.1
  • Repeat until you no longer wake up to caged opossums. Then the expert will seal the entry points.

It’s not yet breeding season, our guy told us. So act fast. Once there are babies, it can be harder to catch them all. 

Try not to get too close to them or stress them out when they are in the cage. Because, again –  fleas, and because five big opossums in one short week is not quite as cute as it sounds.


  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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