OPOSSUMS DO NOT MAKE GOOD PETS.
They are wild things and have wild instincts. They do not trust humans and do not accept other domestic animals as companions. Please do not consider keeping these incredible and fragile creatures as a pet – to keep opossum in a cage for the rest of its life is to doom it to a life of sadness and broken spirit.
For further information, please contact us!
WildRescue, Inc./Rabbit Rescue
If you are outside of the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and need to find a wildlife rehabilitator, please go here:
“I found a nest of orphaned, eyes-closed opossum. What do I do?”Baby opossums that still have their eyes closed are far too young to survive without their mother. Here’s what you do if you find one or more baby opossums.
Immediately look around for the mother. Opossums do not leave their mothers voluntarily until they are at least ½ lb. in weight. The mother may have been hit by a car or killed/injured by a predator or frightened enough for the baby to have fallen off her back (she travels constantly with her babies on her back or in her pouch). There will usually be more babies, so searching for the mom will be critical to the lives of the other opossums, especially if the mother is dead. Neonate, or eyes-closed, opossums will not disengage from their mother’s nipple (teat) even if she is dead. They will continue to nurse, thus absorbing toxins as time progresses and becoming slowly poisoned. Opossums whose eyes are open and are walking will usually not leave their mother even if she is dead. Check for injuries/bruising. Get a box with lid and place a clean t-shirt along with the babies into the box. Punch air holes in the lid and secure the entire box with a rubber band. Opossums are escape artists!
MOTHER OPOSSUMS DO NOT COME BACK FOR THEIR BABIES! If you find an opossums and the mother is nowhere in sight, then a wildlife rehabilitator needs to be contacted immediately!
“How often does the mother feed the babies?”
Opossums are North America’s only marsupial (like the kangaroo) and live in their mother’s pouch where they literally attach to and nurse from her nipples continuously until they reach 2-3 weeks of age. At that point they disengage from the nipple and start crawling around, sometimes coming out of her pouch as they investigate their new world.
“I have picked up the babies – won’t my scent keep the mother away?”
Since the mother does not come back for her babies, you will need to intervene and pick up the babies. Human scent will not interfere with their survival.
“How do I know if the babies are old enough to survive on their own?”
Opossum babies leave their mother either voluntarily or by falling off of her back while she is moving. If an opossum is at least ½ lb. or greater in weight, then they can usually survive on their own. The best way to tell is by contacting a rehabilitator who can help you determine the age of the opossum
”How many babies do opossums have?”
Opossums have 13+ babies in one litter, although it is unlikely that all will survive
“What do I do if I find a dead mother opossum?”
It is best if the mother’s body can be set in a safe location and/or into a box for transport to the rehabilitator. Babies that are still attached to the mother’s teat will need to be gently disengaged from the teat and fed with a special feeding tube for the first few weeks of their lives. If you see babies milling about the dead mother, try to get all of them into an animal carrier where they can be safe either for transport to a rehabilitator or until the rehabilitator arrives at the site.
“The babies are blue and cold. What do I do?”
Opossums have a subnormal temperature and cannot endure the cold. They MUST be kept warm until help can be obtained. Please see section on how to transport below for information on keeping them warm.
“My cat/dog just brought in a baby opossum. What do I do now?”
Dogs crush and cats puncture. An opossum that has been in the mouth of a cat is in great danger. The saliva of a cat actually carries billions of particles of bacteria and enzymes that break down the cellular structure of living tissue. Even if there appears to be no external wound, the sharp, pointed teeth of a cat could have easily punctured a vital internal organ. As quickly as is feasible and possible, get the baby to a permitted wildlife rehabilitator. Do not attempt to care for an injured opossum yourself!!
An opossum that has been brought in by your dog is also in danger, but at least the saliva of a dog is not fatal to an opossum (or other animals). However, a dog’s bite can crush an opossum’s bones. If there is any question to whether your dog has injured an opossum, contact us immediately to determine if the opossum needs emergency care. Separate the dog from the opossum, and keep him supervised while he’s outside to make sure there are no more incidents.
“I’ve determined that a rescue is necessary. How do I transport them?”
If after having read the information on the 911 for Opossums page you have determined that a rescue is absolutely necessary, here are some instructions for preparing the opossum(s) for transport to the rescue center. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us as this will help us improve these instructions for future use.
Find a small container such as a shoebox or small cardboard box. Punch air holes in the lid. Line the shoebox with a clean, soft cloth or old t-shirt that you do not mind giving up. Place the babies inside the shoebox and put a rubber band around the box and lid, securing it for the ride.
Babies must stay warm! Fill a clean tube sock with uncooked white rice and tie it off towards the top of the sock with a piece of string or a good knot. Place the sock in the microwave and heat for less than a minute. Place the sock inside the shoebox and put a washcloth or other piece of clean cloth over the sock. You don’t want the sock to be so hot that it could burn the babies. The babies will crawl next to the warmth of the sock, and they can move away if it is too warm. Another option is to put a wet washcloth (wrung out) into a ziplock baggie and microwave until warm but not hot. This acts as a portable heating pad and should be placed underneath the cloth at the bottom of the shoebox.
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FEED THE BABIES – TO DO SO COULD CAUSE THEIR DEATH!
If it is going to be a length of time before you can get the babies to a rehabilitator, please do the following:
Follow the instructions above as per the shoebox or other small container.
If you have a heating pad, set it on low and place the pad on a non-conductive surface (your bathroom counter or washing machine lid will do just fine). Place the container with the babies half-on and half-off the heating pad. This will allow the babies to move away from the heat if they need to.
Opossums require a specialized formula. Alone, most replacement formulas do not contain the sufficient ingredients to sustain a growing baby opossum. A rehabilitator has been trained to offer the formula appropriate for this species and knows the correct feeding schedule and protocol of rehydration. You also run the risk of aspirating the baby by using an incorrect feeding utensil (such as a baby bottle with nipple). Mom opossums also stimulate the babies after feeding in order to help them eliminate. This process is vital to their health and life. Baby opossums are incredibly fragile and do not take handling by humans well. They will die of stress if handled improperly. Keep baby opossums away from children, household noise (such as vacuum cleaner and so forth), domestic pets and bright light.
If you determne that the opossum needs to be seen by us please call us at 972-891-9286; be prepared to tell us the number of animals found, the physical condition of the animal, under what circumstances the animal was found, and your location. We field dozens of calls a day from all over the country, so please be as succinct as possible during your call. Animals can be dropped off at our center in Denton, TX Monday through Saturday from 10:00am to 8:00pm and Sunday from noon to 6:00pm. We also have drop-off locations in Plano and Lewisville available Monday through Thursday from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Contact us for location information. We are a small, non-profit center – any donation you can give to help with the animals care is greatly appreciated!