Jul 25, 2015

Mother opossum in a jam


Today we were called to rescue an opossum that was stuck in a fence. Apparently the opossum had tried to pass under a picket fence - perhaps a usually route for her, when she became wedged underneath. 

A huge Thank You to Peter for calling WES for help!

When we arrived at the home on Catalpa Street in Santa Cruz we found the mother opossum very alert yet exhausted, her mouth full of dirt. Clearly, she'd been using her teeth to dig away dirt to free herself.

On her back were three babies clinging tightly to their mother's fur. They were about as big as a medium-sized baking potato... ears twitching nervously at every sound. The mother was obviously terrified to be caught, especially now that it was light out and "predators" were about.

Her front half was in Peter's yard, her back half was in his neighbor's, Anne.

First, we collected the babies that were on her back to keep them safe while we assisted their mom. The mother was extremely protective of her young, trying to fend us off - snapping at us with jaws that contain more teeth than any other North American mammal.

Once the babies were safely contained, we went to work on freeing the mother. 

She was clearly pinned at the spine and shoulders by the wooden stakes, but below, against the dirt, it was her pouch - full of babies - that was keeping her from slipping under and through.

Quite the predicament! 

The opening to the pouch was underneath her, so, as long as the mother kept struggling to get through the fence, the babies had no way to get out of the pouch. As she inched forward, she was putting more and more pressure on the pouch - on the babies inside, essentially crushing them.

We gently manipulated the mother onto her side, exposing the pouch opening, then got to work removing the babies, one by one. 

The first two babies were in bad shape - one appeared to be dead. The others were good - wriggly and pissy - barking at us defensively with a sneezing sound, "CHH!, CHH!"

We kept pulling more and more,... they kept coming... Eight of them! 

Finally, the mom was slim enough to be backed out from under the fence. She didn't like it very much, obviously. She squirmed and fought and tried to grab at us, but her expression changed the second she was placed into the carrier with all eleven of her babies surrounding her. Yes, all of them!

The one that looked dead when we first brought it out - it came back to life after some "encouragement" - a bit of tapping and squeezing and blowing at the nose, a bit of begging and, finally, a bit of movement - life returned!

Check out the video:



The opossum family was taken to the local wildlife hospital, Native Animal Rescue, for evaluation and care. The family should be able to go home soon.

THANK YOU! Anne for helping with the rescue!

THANK YOU! Native Animal Rescue for all the great care you give the injured and orphaned!


UPDATE: 8-1-2015

The mother opossum is doing well and is ready for release. Check back for the release video.




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