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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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…