Bruce, a fellow wildlife rehabber gave me a call about nine baby opossums that he had for me and he brought them straight on over to my house. Unfortunately, like many opossums, their mother was hit by a car. Luckily though, someone stopped to check the mother on the side of the road and found nine babies alive and well still in her pouch. This happens so often. Mother opossums are hit by cars and even though the hit may be fatal to the mother, the pouch acts as a airbag for her babies and protects them. Babies can survive for up to three days in their mother's pouch after she has passed on. Although, if the weather is extreme they do not have a long survival time. This is why I urge everyone to please stop and check opossums on the side of the road. If you happen to hit one with your car, of course accidents do happen, please pull over and check on the opossum. It could make the difference between life and death of up to thirteen babies. There is also a chance that the mother may not have been badly injured. Or if it is a male, he may not be badly injured either. In this case, please call a wildlife rehabber immediately so they can care for the adult and/or the babies. If you live in or nearby Tulare county, please call me. I currently have an adult male that was hit by a car that survived thanks to someone calling it in. More about him later though.
Early the other morning a man gave me a call and told me that his dogs had got a hold of an opossum the previous night. When he found her, she didn't look too bad, but saw that she had babies in her pouch. He moved her outside of the fenced in area where his dogs were, hoping that she would get better. Unfortunately, the next morning, when he called me, he had seen that she didn't make it. So he called Critter Creek and they gave him my number. I immediately drove to his house to save the babies. Aside from being hit by cars, dog attacks are one of the main reasons opossums are killed. This man wanted to give the babies a fighting chance though, and he felt bad that his dogs had killed their mother. I am very glad that he called me and I thanked him greatly. When I got there he took me to where he laid down the mom the previous night. The babies were no longer in her pouch, but still holding tight to her and trying to stay warm. They were all severly infested with fleas and had multiple red ant bites from the ants that had already begun to attack their dead mother. Unfortunately, one of their siblings did not make it and was found dead in its mother's pouch. Once I arrived home I immediately begun to get rid of all of the fleas on their little bodies. I don't think I have ever seen so many fleas before on something so little. Flea infestations, especially on something so little, is a very big concern. By continuing to drain their blood, they can cause flea anemia which can be fatal to the babies. These four are still holding strong and currently on antibiotics to fight any bacteria in their systems.
When I arrived at the home where these opossums were, the owner of the house showed me to their mother and said he wasn't exactly sure how she had passed. She had a large open wound on her back about six inches long and three inches wide. Since this man lived right off of a major road, I came to the conclusion that their mother was unfortunately hit by a car. He then showed me to where the babies were hiding and he told me he wasn't sure how many there were. While walking through his laundry room, which was were the babies were, I could see a trail of what appeared to be dried up blood. It looked like the mother had found a place to keep her babies safe while she foraged for food. She even continued to come back to them and care for them while still struggling to survive after being hit by a car. When I found them, I counted seven in total. They were fierce little fuzz balls. Old enough to be eating on their own, but they still needed to be nursing on their mother. So they still get milk replacer, but are slowly being introduced to solid foods. The man who called was very grateful that I could take care of these babies, and I was very grateful that he contacted me to help them out. All seven are still doing very well and they are always climing all over their cage at night.
Just the other night I got a call from Andy, a fellow rehabber, saying that someone would be calling me about an opossum baby they found. Later on, I got a call letting me know they were on their way to my house with two little ones. Earlier that evening they heard the "sneezing" noise of a baby opossum calling for its mother. When an opossum has fallen off its mother it will call for her to come back. Soon they found the first baby. Not long after they found a second. There was no sign of their mother anywhere around. When they arrived to my house I thanked the man very much for bringing them to me. He said that when he found them they were freezing to the touch and his daughter got them warmed back up. I immediately got them in a nest box I already had prepared for them and got them warmed back up. They were both doing well the first two nights, unfortunately the male passed away unexpectantly earlier today. His sister is still doing well and has been on antibiotics since I got her to hopefully help prevent her from suffering the same fate. Once she gets big enough to eat on her own, I will try and house her with the nine other young babies that she she does not have to be raised on her own.
Andy, a fellow rehabber in town, called me about this adult male opossum that he had received that was hit by a car and he wanted me to come take a look at him since I had more experience in opossums. When I arrived, the male was sleeping since it was daytime. I began to check his whole body for any open wounds and also the way he was walking to see if he had any limping or apparent broken bones. When he opened his mouth to me to try and scare me off, I noticed that his jaw was not perfectly straight. I began to feel along his jaw bone to check for any possible breaks or fractures. The left side of his jaw was more swollen than the left, but he was able to open and close it properly without any issues other than a slight misalignment. He also had a nasty cough and a wheez when he breathed too heavily or yawned. I got out my stethescope to check for any liquid building in his lungs but did not find any evidence of that. I let the rehabber know that I would take him home to keep an eye on his health and to get him on pain meds and antibiotics. Later that night when it was time for dinner, I realized that he seemed to be having a hard time eating any solid food such as kibble, fruit, or veggies. So my previous thoughts about him having issues with his jaw have been confirmed so he is now on a liquid diet to help let his jaw finish healing. His breathing is slowly getting better and he is very active at night. I have high hopes for him having a full recovery and being able to be released somewhere far from roads.
Two months ago I received a call from animal control about eleven very young opossum babies. Their mother was attacked by a dog and her pouch had received the majority of the damaged. When the owner of the property she was on found her, he said that all of the babies were together under her neck, trying to stay warm, and no longer having an intact pouch to go to. So the I met with an animal control officer of the SPCA to get the babies from him. Unfortunately, one had already passed by the time I got them. I immediately got them home and warmed them up because they were very cold. I inspected each one very carefully since they would have been in the pouch when the dog attacked. I could not find any visible wounds, but every one of them had varying degrees of bruising. Once warm, they began to get fluids and were put on antibiotics. Over the next two weeks though, one by one they passed away. The dog had caused too much damage to their little bodies. It was very heartbreaking. While all of them were active and behaving healthier, one would not have made it by the next time I fed. When I was finally down to one female, I wasn't sure how much longer she would last. But she held on strong, and began to grow more and more. Soon though she began to develop sores all over her body. These sores would scab over then turn to open wounds. She ended up developing DSN (Dermal Septic Necrosis) which is a serious bacterial infection in opossums. I immediately put her on Amoxicillin to get rid of the DSN. It wasn't working though so she got put on Baytril which began to slowly clear up her sores and she was not developing any new ones. After having her on the full treatment, she no longer had any new sores and all of her old ones were healing so I took her off of the Baytril. A few days later though, she developed a new sore and she went right back on antibiotics, for a longer period this time. She is now much healthier, and soon ready for release. She is a very strong girl and I am so glad that she made it through all of the hardships she has already been through.