Do Possums Attack and Bite People – Are they Dangerous?

Wondering if Possums can be Dangerous? Not sure what to do about a Possum in your Yard and how to approach it without it attacking or biting you?

In this guide you will learn:

  • If Possums can be Dangerous to Humans or Pets.
  • If Possums attack and If Possums are known to be Mean and bite People,
  • What to do If you get Bitten or Scratched by a Possum,
  • What Should you do If you See a Possum and How to Scare it away.

Are Possums Dangerous? 

‘Opossums’ or as they are more commonly known in North America, possums, are not typically dangerous to humans or other animals, however they will react if provoked.

Opossums are the only marsupial native to North America; their difference is down to origin. Opossums are marsupials located in the North American region whereas ‘possums’ are marsupials from Australian roots.

This article will Cover Possums Found in North America

Possums aren’t generally considered be dangerous as they don’t carry rabies, due to their body temperatures being too low to host the virus.

They are not totally danger free however, as they do carry other harmful diseases such as spotted fever and tuberculosis. This means you should never handle Possums without protective measures, if at all as they might be dangerous to you when it comes to potential diseases they can carry.

If you’re worried about one of these guys roaming through your garden, don’t. They are probably moving on soon and can actually be very useful for you and your veggie patch. This is because Possums consume lots of insects and amazingly, can consume up to 5,000 ticks a year.

Do Possums Attack People

Possums are fairly docile creatures and are therefore very unlikely to attack and bite you.

In fact, possums have a very bizarre reaction to being threatened. They actually go into an involuntary shock, which makes them play dead due to the stress of confrontation.

They can stay in this state for hours until they are sure the danger, or threat has passed. They are in a sort of paralysed state which is so bizarre you could actually wave your hand in front of a possum’s mouth without the risk of being bitten, although not recommended.

The other response a possum might have when faced with confrontation, is to bare its’ teeth to show that it can be dangerous. However, this is a bluff as possums are rather shy and timid.

Perhaps next time I’m threatened I will try the ‘playing possum’ tactic!

It is unlikely a Possum will attack you due to its’ response of shutting down. But it’s not impossible, they will hiss or growl to ward you off but they will not physically attack unless it’s a last resort or self defence.

Are Possums Mean?

Possums are not mean or aggressive and like to avoid confrontation.

It has been reported that dogs are more likely to kill and bite a possum than the other way around.

Just because they aren’t usually vicious doesn’t mean they can’t be!

Can Possums be Friendly

They are docile and not vicious, so by those standards are relatively ‘friendly.’ But they are solitary animals which means they operate alone and don’t get on with other animals particularly well.

This means they aren’t likely to get on with you or your pets either so don’t be tempted to give them a cuddle!

Possums are wild animals and although they may seem harmless and rarely attack, they aren’t pets.

Possums have been known to walk up to half a mile for food and are omnivores, they get plenty of exercise this way, and if kept as pets it could cause them to be overweight and unhealthy.

It is also notable that some states will not allow them as pets unless for rehabilitation purposes.

Possum Bites

Possums generally don’t bite people, they will not attack without a good reason, and they will hiss and growl or go into a state of shock.

But always remember that they do have the ability to bite so always act with caution.

Possums may look intimidating with their show of 50 teeth; however, their bites aren’t as strong as those of cats or dogs.

This is down to their diet. They only need teeth able to combat small insects such as ticks and therefore don’t need cavernous gnashers.

Don’t feel safe from their bite however, as it still packs a punch. This is because they weigh ten to fifteen pounds and there’s still a forceful bite in that!

Possums won’t try to bite you unless it’s an absolute last resort and they see no other means of escape.

Do Possums bite or Attack Pets?

Dogs are considered to be stronger than possums and therefore, have been said to be the ones more likely to kill possums. This is as stated by the Opossum Society of the United States.

Dogs may also not wish to combat possums as they are unfamiliar animals to them, and the hissing may be enough to turn a dog away.

Cats, on the other hand have been known to have respect towards possums and will likely ignore them and leave them alone.

It is better to keep any pet away from possums as they carry fleas and ticks which is both a personal threat and a financial one to you and your pets.

Continue Reading: Can a Possum Hurt a Dog

What Should you do if You Get Bitten by a Possum?

You should immediately tend to the wound if you get bitten by a Possum, washing it out with warm water and soap (soap containing perfume or alcohol should be avoided.)

When dry, an antiseptic and a dressing should be applied and changed daily, until it has healed.

It is recommended to seek medical attention, especially if there are side effects experienced or infection evident, and if the wound doesn’t heal properly.

Although Rabies is very unlikely from possum bites, possums do carry other diseases and therefore, a round of antibiotics may be needed, so seek medical advice.

What to do if a Possum Scratched You?

Like with Possum bites, wash the wound, and keep it clean, then watch it to make sure there are no infections and potentially seek medical attention.

Possums carry a fatal disease known as tularemia and it takes as much as a scratch to be infected.

You pick up the same disease through open wounds you may already have if you encounter the same soil or water that an infected possum may have also been at.

This is more common in Australian possums than American ones, however.

Is it Safe to Touch a Possum?

Wondering if a possum can hurt you as you touch it?

They are not vicious or aggressive to humans, but they do have teeth and a bite that can transmit disease. 

It is not recommended to touch a possum, especially with bare hands. If you have to move one, try to use a safe specially designed trap and protective thick gloves.

It may also be necessary to wear a mask or even body protection.

As for baby possums, if you were to find an abandoned one these are safe to gently handle, and the mother will still care for them.

They are relatively safe to handle as baby possums do not have their teeth until 12 weeks, and you are therefore not at risk of being bitten.

If you have a baby possum and the mother that seems abandoned the best thing you can do to help it is call animal control, vet, or wildlife centre.

Do not feed it yourself and put in a box with old t-shirts to keep it warm.

Don’t be tempted to keep one and nurture it back to health, you need a licence and keeping one can grant you a hefty 10,000 dollar fine!

Related: Can you Eat Possums

Do Possums Carry a Disease Fatal to Humans?

Yes, if bitten or scratched you could be susceptible to a rare disease called ‘tularaemia’ which can be highly contagious and cause swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, and nausea.

Antibiotics will however help, so seek medical attention.

Possums have also been known to carry spotted fever, tuberculosis and toxoplasmosis. There is also the risk of fleas, ticks, lice and mites in addition. 

What Should you do if you See a Possum

Ultimately, you should leave them alone. If the possums are in the garden, they are likely to be moving on shortly and in any case, they can be really effective garden pest control.

If they are under the house or causing home issues, it is better to seek professional help.

If you see a possum on your property during the night-time, you can shine a bright light at them to get them to move on, or if that is unsuccessful you can spray the hose at them, to cause them to scatter away.

How to Scare Possums Away

Pinwheels in the garden or fans can scare them away, as well as tied helium balloons.

You can also play music from a portable radio as the noise will scare them away. (They may get rid of possums but attract the neighbours so be careful with that one!)

Motion sensor lights or sprinklers are also a good deterrent, Possums can be quite unalarmed by lights so sprinklers are better, as they will startle them.

They are also opposed to strong scents. Either sprinkle the hair from predators around the property edges or scatter garlic, ammonia, or mothballs. These stenches will drive them away.

You can also get possum repellent sprays.

If you are faced with a possum in the moment and wish to scare it away, you can try a bright powerful light or spraying it with the garden hose.

Scaring one away may not be the best idea as you do not want it to go into its shock defence mechanism.

Therefore, it will not appreciate being sprayed with water and this will likely make it sun away.

Similarly, bright light can stop a possum from continuing its path toward you, as they are most vulnerable during the day and their bad eyesight will make them believe the light is daylight.

If you see a possum during the daytime, it is best to leave them alone and wait for them to move on.

This is because it is likely sick or injured and therefore can be aggressive towards you. In this event, call animal services.

Are possums actually Afraid of Humans?

Possums don’t appear to be afraid of humans, they have been reported to have eaten pet food in people’s homes whilst they’re standing there.

However, they will probably stay away from you unless you have food.

They are more likely to scare you away than be scared of you, via an elaborate show of hissing and unveiling their 50 serrated teeth.

Should I let a Possum live under my House?

They could be potentially harmful as they will use parts of your house as shelter.

They are well-known to damage homes by either living in the walls and attics. There they create damage by eating insulation and destroying parts of the wall.

This also means they can destroy the underside of your home by gnawing on wooden beams, wires and insulation, so you don’t really want them there.

For walls, block up cavities and any openings you can also use an ammonia soaked rag to drive them out.

If one is under the house you can put out a can of cat food in a trap to coax them out, just always be cautious and take appropriate measures to protect yourself.

Continue reading: How do Possums Get in Houses

Dangers of Possum Poop

Possum poop can be very dangerous. If a possum gets into your house and leaves behind excrement, it can emit foul odours.

It contains flesh-eating bacteria that cause ulcers, which can harm exposed humans.

Their faeces can also carry salmonella or, leptospirosis (Weil’s disease) which can cause kidney damage and meningitis if left untreated.

All of these can be transmitted through physical touch.

It can also be dangerous to breathe in as the fungal spores can get into your lungs and cardiovascular system.

If you need to clean it up, take precautions such as high-efficiency particulate air masks and gloves, or even a full protective suit.

Scrub down the area afterwards with a special enzyme-based cleaner and dispose of droppings in a tightly sealed plastic bag.

All possums are protected under the ‘Wildlife act 1975’ and it is illegal to kill or catch and release them without a licence, in some states.