Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Tale of Two Opossums

Being a licensed wildlife rehabilitator makes you look at your surroundings in a different way than most people. When my husband and I drive anywhere, one of the things we are always looking for is good patches of dandelion greens to pick for the many cottontails we rehabilitate each year and the other being any injured animals that may need our help. One animal specifically we notice are any dead opossums because anyone of them could be a mom with babies still alive in her pouch. As the only marsupial in North America, mom opossums carry their young with them in their pouch for a number of weeks. They can have two sets of babies each season, one in spring and one in fall. That is why between April and October it is so important to check any dead opossums you see on the road (where it is safe to stop and check).

So the story goes that we are always on the lookout. On September 11th we found a great patch of dandelion greens in Ottawa. The following Tuesday morning my husband went back there for more greens and saw a squashed mamma opossum (he could tell because there were scattered dead little ones on the road). To keep anyone who would be grateful for the free meal from being in the way of traffic, he dragged her way off the road and started picking greens. After just a little while he started thinking; he’d seen her dead and all the little ones but didn't actually check her pouch. So, back he went to where he had dragged her and sure enough - one little guy was still hanging on - ice cold but alive. He brought him home, weighed him and tucked him into a box on heat to warm up.

That night, I had promised to release some orphaned cottontails in a friend’s yard in the town of Waukesha, so after work we packed them up and hurried over there. All went well with the release, but now it was almost 7pm, getting dark, and we need greens again for overnight and morning for the bunnies that were still at home. We wondered where to go - look around and waste time, or go back to Ottawa, which takes time to drive to, but where we’d be assured of abundant greens. We decided Ottawa was the best choice, so off we went. I started picking down the road one way and him the other. A little later he came over and said he thought he heard something but wasn't sure. I came over by where he was picking and listened but heard nothing. Then, a little sound, and nothing again. We didn't want to walk around for fear of stepping on any little ones, and needless to say, by now it was getting dark and we really had to keep picking greens. So I got down to ground level and started making mamma opossum sounds and my husband got down and began to make baby opossum sounds. Sure enough, in just two seconds we hear another little baby. He'd been out there all that time and was cold as ice, but we found him and as of this writing, he and his brother are doing really well.

So, it just goes to show you, if take the extra time you may be able to help save a life.

Guest Blogger: N.M.

Photos courtesy of M. Draeger.


  1. Thanks for this sweet story and for all of your care!

  2. You both are truly amazing people to stop and search for little ones. I have only stopped a few times, but the mom was stiff and had maggots all over her...I did not know what to do. How can we tell if it is good to search in the mother's pouch for babies? Thank you so very much for all you do to help our wildlife and for how much you care.