Dear Mama Opossum

FD and I had just settled in to watch a little TV last evening when the phone rang. A number came up on the caller ID that I was not familiar with, so I just let it ring. My thinking is that a person will leave a message if it is an important call. Soon a woman’s voice announced she was looking for someone who did wildlife rescue. I picked up the phone hoping it was not a dire circumstance.

Fortunately, it was no emergency, but it was a sad situation. This woman, Rachel, was coming home from town with her young children when they happened upon a gruesome scene. A mother opossum had been ravaged by a predator and was laying in the middle of the narrow dirt road leading to their home.   Rachel, being a lover of animals and respectful of them, decided she could not just leave it laying there and got out to move the body to the side of the road. As she began to remove the remains, she saw movement near what was left of the lower extremities. Investigating further, she discovered three babies in the mother opossum’s pouch.

My photos did not turn out very clear. This little trio was fairly mobile so I had to be quick! We figured they were about 9 weeks old.
My photos did not turn out very clear. This little trio was fairly mobile so I had to be quick! We figured they were about 9 weeks old.

Rachel could not deliver the trio to our home because her husband was working and not home yet, and she did not want to get her children out. It was nearly dark by the time FD and I reached their backwoods home. I was glad I had asked FD to drive. I had never been to this area of the countryside and the woods, cloaked in dark shadows, seemed extra eerie. Rachel came out immediately, but ahead of her a small, yapping dog greeted us. I heard children crying from inside the door of the house. I knew this woman had done the best that she could at the time. She had managed to warm the cold babies with a heating pad. But oh the noise in the house and the stress it must have caused these wee critters. Wild babies are easily stressed with too much noise and handling.

As we got back in the truck I heard a strange noise. Some kind of a hissing or spitting sound! FD did not hear it, but I sure did. As we pulled into Walmart and FD shut off the truck’s diesel engine, the hissing ensued.  I opened the towel and, even though they had no teeth and did not appear to be making the noise, I was sure that it was coming from the little opossums! The hissing was sort of intimidating to me, but FD assured me they were harmless. We left our little charges in the truck while we dashed inside to purchase puppy replacement milk and some whipping cream. This was a “just in case” measure. First we had to get them warm. Hydration would follow.

Baby Opossum Sleeping_4632

When we arrived back home, I rounded up an old shoe box and one of the old style heating pads that stay on continually. The new heating pads shut off after an hour or two, which does not work well for keeping orphans warm throughout the day and night. My busy schedule would certainly get in the way of having to restart a heating pad every two hours – plus, I do enjoy sleeping all through the night. FD took a closer look at each opossum baby to make sure they were in good condition. One had a small flesh wound, but it did not appear to be anything more than superficial. Still, this little one would require an antibiotic which I did not have access to, nor did I have a local vet I could rely on for help. FD and I made an attempt to try to hydrate the little wigglers with an ear dropper and a syringe, but none of them would take more than a drop or two of liquid. Finally, we tucked them into an old tea towel and let them settle into a corner of the now gently heated box to keep warm. FD and I then spent the rest of the evening  perusing online information on raising baby opossum’s.

Baby Opossum_4633 Baby Opossum_4634

It was apparent in a short time, but especially after finding the wound on one baby, that the best option for both me and the opossum babies was for me to take the hour-long drive to WildCare of Oklahoma in the morning. There, the injured opossum could get needed antibiotics, and all of the babies would get expert care that we were not skilled at.

Up early and on the road as the sun came up, my mind wandered. I had not slept well all night for worry and wonder. I felt compassion and sadness for this little family, now without a mother. I thought about the weeks the mother opossum had taken care of her many babies. There were probably more than these three, but likely the predator got most of them. I wondered if she could ever know what it took for these three to survive as they did. How they waited, hungry, cold and scared, not knowing what would happen to them. I wished I could assure Mama Opossum that a kind lady had stopped to give her babies warmth and shelter, and that she managed to tap into the network of wildlife rescue – people dedicated to compassion and support of orphaned and injured wildlife. I wanted Mama Opossum to know that there was kindness in the world, and that her babies would live. I hoped she knew that – somehow.

I was curious about the female opossum's pouch and found this photo online. The pouch contains around 11 nipples that the tiny babies attach to, where they spend many weeks growing. Photo courtesy of http://summerbioresearch.blogspot.com//2010_08_01_archive.html
I was curious about the female opossum’s pouch and found this photo online. The pouch contains around 11 nipples that the tiny babies attach to, where they spend many weeks growing. Photo courtesy of http://summerbioresearch.blogspot.com//2010_08_01_archive.html

I arrived at WildCare and checked in, noticing on the sign-in log that just an hour before I got there someone else had delivered baby opossums to the facility! The young woman who assessed the condition of the babies assured me they were well developed and mature enough that they would be easy to care for. She indicated that the wounded baby would require some antibiotic but that the tear in its flesh would heal quickly. I asked about the hissing noise, which I was hearing again. “Oh, that is just their angry noise. They do not like humans very much.” she said.

Opossum Ears - aren't they cute?
Opossum Ears – aren’t they cute?

On the drive back home, I felt relieved. I thought about the positive vibes I was feeling. Mama Opossum had done a marvelous job raising strong, healthy babies. It was sad what happened yesterday. But because of kind and caring people, three of Mama’s babies will live and roam free. I felt a little bit more hope about the human race today. Complete strangers, pulling together out of compassion and caring for three little opossums, showed just what we are capable of in helping one another.

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 

 


67 thoughts on “Dear Mama Opossum

  1. I was holding my breath as I read this, afraid that it was going to end with the babies dying. Thanks SO much for helping to save those adorable little ones. You’re right, this story is life-affirming and makes me feel better about our species, at least for today. 😉

    Like

    1. Oh, Kim, it’s always wonderful to meet other people who care about wildlife and domesticated animals too. We can never know the importance of even the smallest deed in helping someone or something in need.

      Like

  2. Wow, I am glad the clinic will take care of the precious young ones and I feel sorry that the mother got killed. I would have done the same thing if I found a young animal abandoned. I found a dog abandoned and did a wonderful video of me rescuing the dog, you should love it! http://youtu.be/c380nr8_8WA

    Like

    1. Nathan, I saw that video when you posted it and I LOVED it! It is such a good feeling to rescue an animal that needs our help. Thank you for being a part of the network of “angels” who love and care for animals.

      Like

    1. Thank you Margaret! They were some sweeties… well, except for that hissing noise, which of course I understand was instinct. They did not know I was helping them!

      Like

    1. Oh, thank you! Most of the time I’ve found that people want to help, but it’s difficult to find a rescue facility or individual in their area. I’m thankful WildCare is just an hour drive from here. If I cannot take on a rescue case, they can.

      Like

  3. Heart-warming!
    We see so much misery among animals, it sure is sad.
    I believe not many would have done what you both did. I wish all of us would step in, in some way at least, to care for these wonderful creations of God.
    In Bahrain, there is nothing to call ‘wildlife’ and ‘nature’ as far as animals are concerned but there are thousands of stray dogs and cats – mistreated many a time – and left to fend for themselves.
    Bahrain’s legendary Dogfather and the BSPCA are doing their bit but clearly, their efforts are not enough.
    Perhaps we need a few of you here!

    Like

    1. Interesting comment! You know, I have heard the same problem exists in many other countries – that there are not resources to help either wildlife or domesticated animals in their plight to survive. It makes me sad to think there are so many animals in the world who we simply leave to fend for themselves. WildCare is pretty much privately funded, a non-profit organization. That speaks mountains about the people who donate, who have great compassion for our wild critters.

      Like

    1. Thank you Yvonne. I am very thankful that WildCare exists and that it’s not too far to travel. They have a great staff of dedicated folks who really give a lot of time and energy to compassionate care of wildlife.

      Like

    1. Yes, Sandy, if I make a trip to WildCare it is because I cannot handle a situation. The one little opossum needed medical treatment. I was so happy to see that other baby opossums were brought in that same morning. They’ll all be able to grow up together!

      Like

  4. We humans might be world ravagers but each of us can do what we can to redress some of that incredible imbalance for our fellow animals. I am so proud of you all for saving those tiny opposums. As you know possums and I are not fine bedfellows but I would never kill one. They might trampoline their way to destruction on my circus tented veggie garden but if they are clever enough to bounce their way to my tall tomatoes I have grudging admiration for something that persistant and clever. Poor mother opposum but your kindness has given her 3 babies a new chance at keeping her legacy alive 🙂

    Like

    1. I know Fran. I think of you each time I see one of these little buggers lately. They can be destructive here too. I got a rescue call from a lady in the northeastern part of Oklahoma a while back, who had shot a opossum that was in her chicken barn, and didn’t realize until she went in to remove the body that it had 6 babies in the pouch! I ended up referring her – she’s 3 hours drive from here, but felt bad for the situation. This time of the year is “baby” season. Every spring I get calls like this… so sad.

      Like

      1. The mothers only have 1 baby here and it stays with them for ages. You can see the babies clinging to their mums in the trees as the wicked witches are rifling through the orchard ;). Hard to be too grumpy at them when they have babies to feed to be honest 🙂

        Like

  5. Oh my gosh, they are so tiny! I’m so glad that Rachel pulled over to lay the mother to rest, and I’m so glad she got in touch with you. With luck these three will grow up healthy and be able to be released when they are old enough. Such a heart warming post.

    Like

    1. Thank you Rachel for such a compassionate comment. I called Rachel after I got home from delivering the little opossum’s to WildCare. I wanted to let her know what the staff worker told me about their conditions and that they were mature enough to be easily fed and cared for. I thanked her for her quick action in contacting me, and for getting the important “warm up” going on before we arrived. I think it’s good to thank the initial rescue person for their act of kindness. Thanks to her actions, these three sweeties will have a second chance at life!

      Like

      1. I’m glad you let her know – not only to thank her but to put her mind at ease instead of wondering what will happen to them 🙂

        I still keep spending ages looking at your photos, they are too gorgeous for their own good!

        Like

        1. Thank you Rachel. I don’t know what I did with the camera that day. I had my macro lens on and I should have changed that out. Somehow most of my photos came out blurry… disappointing yes, but the little babies sure were cute!That little hissing noise cracked me up too. It was a bit intimidating at first!

          Like

  6. Those ears are so precious!!! I completely lost the rest of my comments after looking at that photo 🙂
    Rachel has quite the heart and is quick thinking!

    Like

    1. That ear photo is my favorite! I think Rachel is like many of us… it is that inner guide that leads us to do the kind deed, to offer what we can, and to know just what to do in times of need.

      Like

  7. Hello I am Ms.Indya Elise this is my first couple hours having my first blog ever. I enjoyed reading your little blog. I ask that you follow me and my post giving me your insight and advice on my thoughts and blogs I will do the same in return

    Like

    1. Hello Indya Elise. I had a look at your blog, and I particularly liked the phrase from your first post, “Smile at everyone you meet”. Smiling is the part of you that stays youthful and beautiful your whole life. It will be fun to see how your new blog transforms! Best wishes, new friend!

      Like

      1. Thank you so much, I am ready to mentally branch out meet people who mean well. I go over your page daily viewing your post and the words You choose to use to get your point across. I will proceed to follow you. Very nice to meet you I hope you follow me and give me feed back on my post

        Like

    1. Aw, we enjoy helping out when we can. I’m just thankful WildCare isn’t too far away. I appreciate that they can do what often, I cannot for these little critters!

      Like

  8. I am a city girl gone country and I am an animal lover. I am not a great liker of opossums, but they are one of God’s creatures. And most animals in my opinion are better than a lot of people in this world. I am so glad you can take care of them when in need. I try not to run over anything. Even snakes which I pretty much loathe. But I do know a lot of people would go out of their way to run over an opossum. Thank you for helping them.

    Like

    1. Thank you! You know I do not care for snakes either, and I used to fear them horribly. Living on this ten acres I have learned to appreciate and respect them. I do not kill them (unless it’s a copperhead or it is a snake eating eggs from the chicken barn). There are many pesky and troublesome varmints that sometimes have to be relocated, but for the most part we have learned to appreciate the gift that each offers the ecosystem. I agree… my experience with animals has been much more pleasant than with most humans!

      Isn’t it wonderful to be “city girl gone country”? Good for you!

      Like

      1. It is most wonderful to be city gone country! I have always loved horses growing up and now I have four and a donkey. One is a mustang I adopted wild from the BLM with the donkey. It has been a great learning experience and always will be something new to learn. We do have coyotes and I like to leave them be, but my husband did have to shoot one of a pair as it attacked our dachshund. She survived but it was a scary time. And we would have shot another that got two of my chickens, but couldn’t get an eye on it. Otherwise I do believe in leaving things as they are for balance in nature. I have not had snakes in the chicken house that I know of. And I am most grateful for that.

        Like

        1. Always look in the egg boxes/nests for snakes before reaching in to get eggs! I can’t count the number of times I have spotted them eating eggs! LOL And once they know there are eggs to be had, they’ll come back again and again! I find snakes in my flower beds and in the garden all summer. I just swish my garden hoe around the plants a bit and shoo them away when I see them. Most of the time they prefer not to be around me too!

          I would love a donkey someday but I also hope to be able to travel some this next couple of years. It’s difficult to travel when you have a lot of critters to take care of! ~ Lori

          Like

  9. Oh I do look first. Lots of times there is a hen that is on the nest. I have more to worry about with them sometimes. They have sharp beaks! I think it is good that no one sees me sometimes. I have a tendency to give a no pecking lesson. I’ll thump them a little or grab the neck and say no. I won’t hurt them, or at least try not to. If they behave I’ll pet them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Donkeys can be stubborn, but that is only because they are smart and don’t want to get hurt. It is hard sometimes when we want to go somewhere. My son stays here and house and animals sit when we do go somewhere. Enjoy your travels.

    Like

    1. Ha ha ha! I have trouble with chickens too. I guess all critters are tolerant of us to a point. Thank you… it’s been more than a decade since I’ve traveled a lot. I’m looking forward to it, because it won’t be long and I’ll be too old to care about it! 😀

      Like

  10. Lovely post! I love how caring and compassionate you are to all God’s creatures, big and small. You have made such a difference in the lives of so many, and I truly believe you are doing what you were always meant to do. I’m so proud of you, Big Sister!!

    Like

  11. Hi Lori, This story is quite a contrast to your post about the old, battered opossum who had managed to survive the rigours of his life. In this post you were assisting opossums at the beginning of their lives. They had survived the first of their near disasters. Fate had given them a second chance at life.

    Like

    1. Hello Margaret! Yes, I find it interesting also that I recently found the remains of a dead opossum in the canyon. It appeared to have died from old age (not the one I saw at the wildlife tub). I am beginning to think the opossum species is trying to relay a message to me! I have seen all phases of life with them in just the last three months!

      Like

  12. Goodness, I have never seen a possum that small but I rescued one a bit bigger when I was a kid. His name was Joey and he rode around on my head, I never forget him climbing my mother like a tree, hooking his claws into her stockings as he whipped up onto her head. She stood and laughed out loud. The opossums in NZ have long beautiful bushy tails though. They are lovely to look at but pretty hard on the trees. Good for you taking your babies off to the wildlife place, reading your story I immediately wanted to work there, Now that would be a fantastic job.. wonderful story, so beautifully written.. much love.. your friend.. celi

    Like

    1. Thank you Celi. I wish we lived closer to WildCare. I would volunteer my time. It’s a fascinating place to visit! So many birds and mammals of all sorts. I am in awe of the dedication of staff and volunteers that spend so many hours caring for the orphaned and injured. I love you too Celi… one of these days I’m going to visit your farm and help you with all of your critters!

      Like

  13. I can’t leave an animal in the road either. It’s just not right. All life deserves respect.
    I love possums and wish people would be kinder to them. They are a very old creature. They can’t see well. And they can’t open their mouths up really wide so it’s hard to bite. I guess the hiss is instinct. We used to have a lot of them at our old house – they all look different if you try to notice. The little ones used to try and snuggle with Olde Tiger, but he hissed, too and wouldn’t move…the little ones backed off…mistaken for mom maybe. We found some cat/dog bed warmers (check pet stores or online) which are basically the old heating pads with a fake lambskin cover. We had them in the “kitty condo 6 cubbies” we built (at the old house )inside a sort of greenhouse constructed for winter on the porch. Sunny most of the day, and shelter at night. Small cat door entrance for anything with no where to go – we had a string over excessively cold winters. Somehow they all got along – and the skunks never came in.
    RC is getting old and like the heated bed in the winter now.
    Good luck with the little ones! They are funny little clowns – so serious when grown

    Like

    1. Thank you for that lovely story. I would have raised this little trio but FD and I have a trip planned this summer and it would be difficult to find someone to care for these little babies in our absence. I took them to WildCare – about an hour from here. They are the local experts on animal rehabilitation, and they’re privately funded to handle varied animal and bird species. I just didn’t feel it was right to start work I couldn’t finish. We won’t be taking on any wildlife this summer until our return.

      Like

      1. That’s really the best place for them. It takes 24 hr care, and specialists (used to sleep deprivation?). They have all the food and materials needed. You what the wildlife people here beg people to do – it’s easy to do more harm than good. ( and it’s so easy to get attached to them – as you know.)
        We have a center on the opposite side of town ( about 2+ hours). Water bird go to Galveston to the center there.

        Like

        1. Wildcard handles about everything, but we do have two raptor centers (one a Native American group and the other a privately-run facility) that are closer in distance. It never bothers me about fuel cost to deliver the orphans or wounded. I try to encourage people to take animals to these places, but often in this area people cannot afford to drive or they do not have a vehicle. Generally, if I have the time I don’t mind doing rehabilitation here, but this year it won’t work out. I’ll keep up my certification and answer phone calls. It’s still something I can contribute!

          Like

    1. Ha ha! Yes, they were some sweeties. The people at Wildcare assured me they would do well. They are far enough along and healthy so they’ll make it back to the wild in no time!

      Like

Comments are closed.