Can You Shoot A Possum In Your Backyard?

Possums, commonly found in both urban and rural areas, can sometimes be seen as a nuisance to homeowners. Some common reasons for wanting to shoot a possum include:

  • Property damage
  • Concerns about disease or parasites
  • Fear for pets or livestock

Whether you can shoot a possum in your backyard largely depends on the laws and regulations in your specific jurisdiction. It is essential to recognize that the legality of shooting possums or any other animals can vary significantly from one place to another.

In some areas, shooting a possum in your backyard may be permitted if it poses a threat to your property or personal safety. For instance, if possums are causing damage to your garden, damaging your property, or potentially spreading disease, there may be provisions allowing the removal, including shooting, of such pests. However, even in these cases, certain restrictions may apply, such as obtaining a permit or using humane methods.

In contrast, many jurisdictions have strict animal protection laws that forbid the unnecessary harm or killing of animals. In such areas, shooting a possum without a valid reason could result in legal consequences, such as fines or even criminal charges.

In any case, it is crucial to research and understand the local laws, regulations, and guidelines specific to your area before taking any action. If you are experiencing issues with possums or any other wildlife, it is often advisable to contact local wildlife authorities or pest control professionals who can provide guidance on lawful and humane solutions for managing the situation.

Legal Considerations

Federal Laws and Regulations

There are a few federal laws that may be relevant when considering shooting a possum:

  1. Endangered Species Act: While possums are not currently listed as an endangered species, it’s important to ensure that you’re not harming a protected species by mistake.
  2. Migratory Bird Treaty Act: Although possums are not covered by this act, it’s worth mentioning as a reminder to be aware of protected bird species that might share the same habitat.

State Laws and Regulations

Each state has its own laws and regulations concerning hunting and the shooting of wildlife. Key points to consider include:

  • Hunting licenses and permits: You may be required to obtain a license or permit to legally shoot a possum.
  • Seasonal restrictions: Some states may have designated seasons for hunting possums.
  • Specific rules on shooting possums: These rules can vary from state to state, so it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with your local regulations.

Local Ordinances and Restrictions

In addition to federal and state laws, there may be local ordinances and restrictions that you need to follow:

  • Discharge of firearms: Many localities have restrictions on discharging firearms within city limits or near residential areas.
  • Nuisance animal regulations: Some localities may have specific regulations concerning the handling of nuisance animals.
  • Noise ordinances: Shooting a firearm may violate local noise ordinances, especially during nighttime hours.

Ethical Considerations

The Role of Possums in the Ecosystem

It’s important to recognize the role that possums play in the ecosystem:

  • Scavengers and waste management: Possums consume dead animals and help keep the environment clean.
  • Control of insect and rodent populations: Possums eat insects and small rodents, helping to control their populations.

Did you know possums kill an estimated 5,000 ticks a season and catch and eat cockroaches, rats, and mice? That’s why USA Today calls them an ally for your yard.

Inhumane Methods of Killing

  • Suffering caused by improper shooting techniques: Ineffective shooting can cause unnecessary pain and suffering for the animal.
  • The importance of using the right equipment: Using the appropriate firearm and ammunition can minimize the suffering of the animal.

Alternatives to Shooting

Before resorting to shooting a possum, consider these alternatives:

  • Humane trapping and relocation: Live traps can be used to capture and relocate the animal to a more suitable habitat.
  • Exclusion methods and habitat modification: Making your property less attractive to possums can discourage them from taking up residence.
  • Hiring professional wildlife control services: A professional can help you address your possum problem in a humane and effective manner.

Safety Concerns

Proper Firearm Handling and Storage

When handling firearms, always practice the following safety measures:

  • Trigger discipline: Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • Muzzle control: Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.

Understanding the Risks of Shooting in a Residential Area

Shooting in a residential area comes with inherent risks:

  • Risk of injury to humans and pets: Errant shots can pose a danger to people and animals in the vicinity.
  • Property damage: Stray bullets can cause significant damage to homes, vehicles, or other property.

The Importance of Knowing Your Target and What is Beyond It

When shooting a possum, it is crucial to be aware of your surroundings:

  • Identify your target: Be certain you are aiming at a possum and not another animal or object.
  • Be aware of what is beyond your target: Ensure there are no people, pets, or property that could be harmed if you miss your target or if the bullet passes through it.

Environmental and Health Impacts

The Potential for Disease Transmission

Possums can carry certain diseases that may be of concern:

  • Rabies: Although possums are less likely to carry rabies than some other mammals, it is still a risk to be aware of.
  • Other zoonotic diseases: Possums can also carry parasites and other diseases that can be transmitted to humans or pets.

Secondary Poisoning from Lead Ammunition

Lead ammunition can have harmful environmental effects:

  • Impact on scavengers and predators: Animals that consume the remains of a possum killed with lead ammunition can suffer from lead poisoning.
  • Contamination of soil and water sources: Lead from ammunition can leach into the soil and water, affecting the local ecosystem.

Non-toxic Ammunition Alternatives

Consider using non-toxic ammunition to minimize environmental impacts:

  • Copper bullets: Copper is a popular lead-free alternative that is both effective and less harmful to the environment.
  • Steel shot: Steel is another alternative, although it may not be as effective as copper for hunting possums.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions about possums.

1. Do possums pose a threat?

Possums do not generally pose a significant threat to humans. They are generally docile creatures that prefer to avoid conflicts and are unlikely to attack unless they feel threatened or cornered. Possums are beneficial animals as they help control insect populations and consume carrion, reducing the spread of diseases. However, they can be a nuisance in urban areas, as they may rummage through trash or cause minor property damage. Additionally, possums can carry certain diseases such as leptospirosis or fleas, which can be transmitted to humans or pets. Overall, while there are some risks associated with possums, they are generally harmless and prefer peaceful coexistence with humans.

2. How to trap a possum?

To trap a possum, start by identifying its primary entry and exit points near your property. Set up a large, humane trap near these areas, using bait like cat food, fruits, or vegetables to attract the possum. Check local regulations to ensure trapping possums is legal in your area. Once the trap is set, monitor it regularly, preferably in the evening or early morning when possums are most active. Once trapped, handle the possum with care, wearing gloves to protect yourself from potential scratches or bites. Contact local animal control authorities or wildlife organizations for guidance on how to handle and relocate the trapped possum.

3. Can you get in trouble for killing a possum?

Whether killing a possum can get you in trouble depends on various factors, including the jurisdiction and local laws where the act occurred. In some places, possums are considered protected wildlife and killing them without a permit is a violation, leading to potential legal consequences such as fines or even imprisonment. However, in areas where possums are seen as pests or invasive species, regulations might differ, allowing for their control or removal. Additionally, laws regarding animal cruelty or ethical considerations may come into play, suggesting that killing any animal without valid justification could still result in legal repercussions or moral criticism. It’s crucial to consult relevant laws and authorities for accurate information regarding a specific situation.

4. Can I kill a possum with a BB gun?

It is not recommended to kill a possum with a BB gun. Possums are protected in many areas and killing them may be illegal. Additionally, using a BB gun to kill an animal can cause unnecessary suffering and may not result in a quick or humane death. It is always better to explore non-lethal alternatives to manage possum problems, such as using humane traps to relocate them or seeking assistance from local wildlife or pest control authorities who can handle the situation safely and ethically.

5. What attracts possums to your yard?

Possums are attracted to yards by several factors. Firstly, their natural diet consists of fruits, vegetables, and nuts, making fruit trees and gardens with fresh produce a magnet for them. Additionally, possums are opportunistic feeders and scavengers, so any pet or bird food left outside can also draw them in. Furthermore, they seek shelter in cozy spaces such as tree hollows, roof cavities, and sheds, so properties with these structures are appealing. Finally, possums are nocturnal creatures, so yards with dim lighting or those adjacent to parks and bushland, where they can easily roam and search for food during the night, are more likely to attract them.


In summary, before deciding to shoot a possum in your backyard, consider the following key points:

  • Understand and follow local, state, and federal laws and regulations.
  • Recognize the role of possums in the ecosystem and consider non-lethal alternatives.
  • Prioritize safety and environmental concerns when handling firearms and ammunition.

By taking the time to understand your local laws and the potential consequences of shooting a possum, you can make an informed decision that is both responsible and humane.


  • Nathan Collins

    Having spent years working in the landscaping industry, Nathan Collins has cultivated a wealth of knowledge about the natural world. He is committed to helping others appreciate the beauty in their backyards, whether it's through identifying rare rocks and minerals or crafting the perfect landscape.

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