Reminder: Do not feed or give water to an animal that may need medical attention.
The phrase, Playing Opossum, comes from the ability of this marsupial to slow it’s breathing under stress to the point of passing out temporarily. For the Opossum, it’s a life-saving trick to trick predators into thinking they are dead. For a well-meaning person, it can be difficult to determine if it has expired or if it is temporarily unconscious. If there are no injuries, no crawling insects, and the body is warm, it can be moved out of harms way and observed to see if it awakens and moves on. Do not handle the animal unless it needs to be moved out of a road, etc.
Note: If you find a female Opossum and confirmed that she is deceased, please check to see if she has babies in her pouch or if babies have crawled off her.
- If her babies are old enough to be out of the pouch and are crawling around her, you will need to check in any nearby bushes for other babies. She can carry up to 12.
- If she has babies in her pouch, please do not attempt to remove them. Opossum babies feed by swallowing the mother’s teat. It takes a special technique to remove them safely. Please bring the deceased mother with her orphaned babies to a wildlife center to rescue the orphans.
When to Intervene
- Obvious wounds, breaks or blood on its body
- Has had contact with a dog, cat, or another predator. (Puncture wounds may not be visible but infection sets in quickly)
- String, glue, or other substance on its body
- Caught in a trap
- Hit by car
- Walking in circles
To transport an adult, it is best to wear protective gloves. Place a towel over them and gently lift the tail at the base by the rump so you can slide your other hand under without being bit. Lift the animal with your hand under the chest and place into a box with air holes or a pet crate. Keep it warm, dark, and quiet, and bring to a wildlife center as soon as possible.
Babies and Juveniles:
Opossums are already on their own while they are still quite small in appearance. If the body of the animal is 6 inches or more (not including the tail), and it appears healthy, it is probably on its own and not orphaned.
- Confirmed to be orphaned
- Out during the day and cold to the touch or lethargic.
- Obvious injuries or bleeding observed.
- Knowledge that it was grabbed by a predator. (Puncture wounds may not be visible but infection sets in quickly)
- Crawling insects
- Often juvenile opossums will fall off of mom’s back. If they’re old enough they will be ok on their own.
- If it is too small to be alone, move it out of harm’s way and watch for the mother from a distance. If she does not return after a couple hours, bring to the nearest wildlife center.
- If there is an immediate risk from a cat or backyard dog, the juvenile will have to come into a wildlife center.
- Apparent injuries, or lethargic
- Caught by a trap
To transport an opossum baby/juvenile simply scoop them up with a towel and place them in a box with air holes. Keep them warm, dark, and quiet and bring in as soon as possible.
Note: It is illegal to trap and re-locate a healthy wild animal. Opossums often suffer from severe injuries when caught in traps.