One of the most facinating creatures to share Long Island with us is the Virginia Opossum. These nocturnal creatures occupy a special ecological niche as North America's only marsupial. Although we may only rarely catch a glimpse of a live 'possum, they are well adapted to rural and suburban life and are quite common. Being true marsupials (like kangaroos), they are a pouch on their abdomen to carry their young in. The actual gestation period is only 13 days, and then up to 35 tiny babies are born and begin to slowly make their way to the pouch and fasten themselves to one of the 13 life-giving teats. Although 35 might be born, only 3-7 will survive.
Injured possums usually freeze and open their mouths when approached. Unless you put your hand directly in their face, they usually will not bite. If you are not comfortable containing the animal, call us for advice.
If unconscious or badly injured, wearing thick gloves, cover it with a towel, scoop up gently with a shovel into a container. If the animal is somewhat conscious, you can steer it into a corner situation, place a box or laundry basket over the top of it, slide thin board under it and flip. Secure the top, making sure there is adequate ventilation.
Mother Dead, Babies in Pouch
Wearing gloves, place the entire mother into a box. Leave the babies in the pouch. Call us for advice.
If the babies are furred and are at least 7" long without the tail, they are on their own. If the babies are smaller, place them in a box with soft cloths with a homemade hot water bottle (place hot water in a 16 oz soda or water bottle, place bottle inside a sock), and call us for advice. It is usually not possible to reunite baby opossums with their mother.
'Possum in Garbage Can
Many 'possums raid garbage cans and then get stuck in them when the can is too empty to allow them to get out. Ask, how long is it in there? (One way to tell is to see if there is a tremendous amount of urine or feces in the can with the possum. Is the possum wet?) If the possum is in the can a long time (2 or more days), it needs to come in for rehab. If not, simply wait till dusk and turn the can over. 'Possum will not attack.