Two Mother Opossum Adopt Orphaned Joeys
By Hope Kosch-Davison
June 17, 2006 – Woodbridge Animal Control brought twelve joeys to Wild Baby Rescue. These orphaned opossum had lost their mother to an animal attack, possibly a dog or coyote.
The baby Opossums weighing only 14-20 grams are put in a felt pocket, on a heating pad for warmth. I now have the problem of babies too small to survive without a mom and mother’s milk.
Several weeks before I had taken in two nursing mother opossums and their broods. All are weaning and eating yogurt, chicken, as well as fruits and vegetables. If I take the mother Opossums’ babies away and replace them with these new tiny babies will they accept them? I have nothing to lose.
I took the joeys from the first mother Opossum. She is the calmest of the two. I rubbed the tiny Opossums (Donna Fox, another rehabbers’ idea) against her original babies to that their smell would be familiar and placed them one by one under near her pouch. I gave her seven in all. The joeys soon found the way into her pouch and two hours later, mother Opossum and her new family were resting quietly with only tiny tails sticking out of her pouch.
I repeated the same procedure with the second mother Opossum and she accepted the remaining five joeys into her pouch.
As of midnight both mothers seemed to have accepted their new responsibilities.
June 18 – Two of the joeys from mom opossum #1 were out of her pouch. I am not sure if she has enough or for that matter any milk at all. One of the joeys was given to mother opossum #2, which she readily accepted. The other was cold and is as of now being hand raised by me. I will continue to keep a close eye on the situation and intervene when necessary.
June 19 – All of the joeys seem to be thriving. The mothers seem relaxed and are eating well. I give them yogurt, boiled chicken, and a variety of fruits and vegetables several times a day. The joey I am raising seems to be doing well. She takes 1 cc of esbilac via a 31/2F feeding tube every three hours.
June 20 – Unfortunately I found one dead baby opossum in mother #1 opossum’s cage this morning. Everyone else seems to be doing alright. I observed mother opossum #2 cleaning her pouch and grooming her new charges.
June 21 – This morning mother #2 had two infants wandering in underneath her. They stayed right under her pouch and when I cleaned her carrier they climbed inside and began to nurse. The little opossum I was hand raising died this afternoon. It was a difficult loss.
June 22 – Mother #1 was observed cleaning her pouch and grooming her new liter. They look to be thriving. Both mothers have good appetites and lick their bowls clean. The little joeys still leave the pouch and walk in under their new mom #2. All joeys return to the pouch if startled.
June 23 – One baby was walking around the cage today. The joeys’ fur is darker in color and fuller. I returned him to his mother’s (#2) back. I saw both mothers grooming their pouches and joeys today. All is going well.
June 25 – Mother #1 seems a little agitated. I will move her to a larger carrier and see if that helps. Both mothers and their charges seem to be doing well.
June 26 – The larger carrier seems to have settled mother #1 down. Both mothers are eating very well and seem to be relaxed caring for their young.
June 27 – Today I noticed that mother #2 had a joey walking around the carrier. I took the opportunity to weigh her. She is 36 grams. The joeys were between 14 and 20 grams upon arrival. I see this weight gain as an excellent sign.
June 29 – All is well. The mothers are eating, the joeys are nursing well.
June 30 – A complication today. Mother #1 is very agitated and it making it very clear that she wants to be free. Her four joeys never leave her pouch so I will release her tonight. Mother opossum and her four joeys have been released. I wish them well.
July 1 – Mother #2 and her joeys are fine. I am noticing that the six joeys are out of her pouch much more then before. I will keep a close watch on them.
July 2 – The joeys are not returning to mother #2’s pouch. They stand in under her. She may have stopped producing milk. I have decided to take the joeys and hand rear them. The are much bigger and have a much better chance of survival.
July 3 – The joeys are doing well and are being tube fed, via a 5F feeding tube, 2 cc’s of esbilac every 4 hours. Mother #2 is getting a well deserved rest and will be released on July 4th.
July 4 – Mother #2 has earned a well deserved release. She will be returned to the wild tonight at 11 pm, after the fireworks subside. It’s a fitting day for her to get her freedom after caring for two litters of joeys.
July 5 – Mother #2’s release went well. One of the hand raised joeys has not survived. I found her dead this morning. I am hoping that the others will do well.
July 6 – The remaining joeys are thriving. They are getting bigger every day. If I am able to save 9 out of 12 infants who had no chance of survival, we will call this a success.
July 8 – The joeys are doing well. They range in weight from 34 – 42 grams. All are female and they are strong. They still call for their mother. It’s a bittersweet success because their mother never got to raise them.