An opossum stands on top of a wooden fence
(Image credit: galinast)

Let’s start from the position that possums are not harmful creatures and do much more good in the garden than they do harm. On the other hand, possums do like to eat, and – in addition to eating caterpillars and harmful bugs – they are tempted by some of your fruit and veggie crop. 

One way to avoid this unhappy result is to resist planting the items that possoms like best. Read on to learn what opossums eat.

What Does an Opossum Eat? 

The word “opossum” comes from an Algonquian word meaning “white animal,” and some say these marsupials look like white rats the size of house cats. But they are truly remarkable critters, the females bearing babies the size of bumblebees that grow in their pouch. 

Possums have been around a long, long time, with ancestors present in the age of the dinosaurs. As the sole marsupial native to North America, they are clearly tough survivors. And this is their secret of survival: they eat almost anything. 

Favorite Foods of Possums

When we say that possoms eat almost anything, we mean almost anything. Most of their diet consists of animal matter, largely insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles, but also crustaceans, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, and carrion. They are appreciated in the garden for chowing down insect pests, snails and slugs, rodents, toads, and snakes. One possum can eat over 5,000 ticks per year!

Possums do very well on native berries, nuts and fruits, but when those aren’t available, they sometimes dip into the garden. Although you may see an opossum eating fruit and crops, they are not a significant source of damage. In cities, they may eat bird food, pet food left outside, and stuff in the compost heap or garbage.

What Vegetables Do Opossums Eat?

When opossums scavenge from cultivated vegetables, they particularly like corn fields. Aside from that, they prefer very ripe fruit and veggies. Favorites include soft persimmons, grapes, and nuts. Generally, they will take fruit that has fallen and partially rotted in preference to fruit on the tree. 

How to prevent possums from eating plants in the garden? If getting rid of these animals is a priority, remove all pet food, bird food like sunflower seeds, and sources of water in the backyard. Another option is to include a native plant garden in the landscape, where you can raise native plants like crabapples, persimmons, blackberries, and hackberries, for them to eat. 

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.