Wild Ideas: A young opossum rescue

Wildlife rehabilitator Judie Graham, the “Possum Queen,” holds one of the rescued opossums. Photo by Pam Owen.

Driving out of my hollow recently on a brutally hot, humid morning, I saw a woman with her dog at the side of the road and an opossum dead in the middle of it. The woman seemed distressed, so I stopped to see if she needed help. She told me the opossum had babies that were still alive. She was concerned about their fate but didn’t know what to do.

The North American or Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) — commonly called just “possum” here in the South — is the only North American marsupial, an order of mammals that raises their young in pouches. Opossums are nocturnal and, being omnivorous, are attracted to roadkill, often ending up roadkill themselves. This is especially true of females slowed down by carrying young (called “joeys”). If not retrieved from a dead mother, joeys that survive can die a gruesome death from starvation, dehydration or being eaten alive by scavengers.

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Pam Owen
About Pam Owen 283 Articles
Writer, editor, photographer, and passionate nature conservationist living in Rappahannock County, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Two favorite quotes: By E.O. Wilson, who coined the term "biodiversity," "Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction”; by Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they pass by.”