On Friday March 11, the Wildlife Center got a call about an injured Virginia Opossum that was seen on the road less than a quarter mile from the Center. Outreach coordinator Chapin volunteered to scope out the situation and rescue the opossum if necessary.
Chapin found the opossum on the side of the road near the driveway of the Center’s neighbor. The opossum was quiet but alert with blood on her head. Chapin put on thick gloves and used a towel to cover the opossum before placing the injured animal in a crate.
Once back at the hospital, veterinary intern Dr. Dana performed a physical exam on the opossum. Opossum patient #16-0101 was identified as a young female, in good body condition, with six to eight babies in her pouch. Opossums are marsupials; they carry their helpless infants in a pouch on their abdomen, where the young are latched on the mother’s nipples. The babies remain there for approximately two months as they develop.
Opossum #16-0101’s babies are very young – likely only a week old. The babies were young, hairless, and thin-skinned, but they appeared healthy, so they were left in place, undisturbed. Dr. Dana captured a video of the babies moving inside their mother’s pouch.
The mother opossum was likely hit by a car; she suffered multiple skull fractures and an incomplete spinal fracture. The opossum’s eyes were non-responsive to light and pupils were narrowed; the nictitating membrane of the opossum’s right eye was elevated, which could indicate eye injury or intracranial pressure.
It’s possible the opossum had neurologic damage or internal hemorrhage following her trauma. The vet staff was encouraged by the opossum’s mobility and alertness, but head trauma could lead to a rapid deterioration during treatment.
Dana treated the opossum with pain medication and fluids to assist with hydration. The staff observed the opossum’s attitude, mobility, and appetite during the next several days. Each day, the opossum seemed feistier and more alert. The opossum’s pupils were responding more normally to light and she was able to walk. The staff has not wanted to disturb the babies in the pouch, but the babies that are easily visible appear to be active and healthy.
The vet staff must continue to monitor the opossum’s ability to walk, her appetite, and her pupillary response to light; it’s still possible she’ll suffer long-term effects from trauma.