Virginia Opossum #16-0101 [Delphine]

March 11, 2016
Rescue Location
Waynesboro, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Likely hit by car
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

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.

Your special donation will help the Center care for this opossum and her babies … and all of the patients admitted in 2016. Please help!

Patient Updates

Delphine has been doing well with her training to be an education ambassador. Outreach staff Amanda and Raina have been working with her regularly, and often bring Delphine to daily rounds with the veterinary staff, or carry her around for visits with the staff and volunteers at the Center. This type of training allows Delphine to get used to the sounds and typical situations that occur when someone is holding her for a program.

Both Amanda and Raina have noticed Delphine growing calmer and more settled during the past two weeks. While there is still additional training to be done, Delphine will be officially added to the roster of education ambassadors. Sponsor her through the Center’s Caring for Critters program for more updates on her future adventures!

On May 28, Virginia Opossum #16-0101’s nine baby opossums were moved to the Center’s Mammal Complex to prepare for release. During the next two weeks, the opossums continued to grow, and by June 11 and 12, all nine babies were ready for release. All were returned to the wild in Augusta County in two separate groups.

During the week of June 6, the outreach staff Raina and Amanda brought mother Virginia Opossum #16-0101 inside the Center to work with her as a potential education ambassador. During the week, the opossum lives in a large crate either in the outreach room or Amanda’s office; on the weekends, the opossum returns to her enclosure in the Center’s "Possum Palace".

Raina and Amanda are working on getting the opossum comfortable to the sights, sounds, and smells of human activity. The opossum is a little jumpy at times, likely due to her compromised vision, but is settling in and is more willing to eat in front of Raina and Amanda.

Typically, the outreach team works with and evaluates a potential education candidate to first make sure the animal in question will be a good fit for the team. After the animal becomes "official", then a name is chosen. In this opossum’s case, Raina and Amanda decided it would be best to have a consistent, verbal way of greeting the opossum before picking her up — and that it made more sense to use a name. So, we are pleased to announce that the opossum’s name is "Delphine" — named for the street that the Wildlife Center is on, where the opossum was found and rescued with her babies.

We look forward to working with Delphine to assess her suitability as an education ambassador.

Virginia Opossum #16-0101 and her nine babies are doing well. The young opossums are growing quickly; they range in weight from 240-260 grams this week.

According to Dr. Kelli, young opossums typically wean from their mothers when they are about 96 – 108 days old; we estimate these opossums are likely 92 days old. The rehabilitation staff will continue to weigh and monitor the young opossums, and they will be separated from their mother sometime in the next couple of weeks and prepared for release.

Virginia Opossum #16-0101 still appears to be avisual and does not have the appropriate behavior of a wild opossum; it’s likely that she sustained permanent head trauma after she was hit by a vehicle. After the young opossums are removed, the outreach staff will begin assessing the mother opossum for her potential as an education ambassador.

A look at "mama" opossum and her babies: 

May 10:

May 18:

May 24:

Opossum #16-0101 and her joeys are doing well. The babies are old enough to have moved out of their mother’s pouch and are fully furred. The veterinary and rehabilitation staff both counted the baby opossums and identified nine joeys. The babies were assigned patient numbers #16-0549 - #16-0557.

The baby opossums will remain at the Center until they naturally wean from their mother before they can be released into the wild.


The rehabilitation staff will assess the opossums daily to identify when the babies are independent of their mother. Likely, the opossums will weigh at least 200 grams before they can be separated and will need to weigh at least 500 grams before they can be released.

Virginia Opossum #16-0101 and her baby opossums have been doing well during the past month at the Center. The babies have been spotted outside of the pouch occasionally; they are getting bigger and growing fur.

The veterinary staff was concerned about the mother opossum’s mentation and ability to see following head trauma. Dr. Dana re-evaluated the opossum on April 8 – she observed that the opossum is abnormally quiet, and a maze test revealed that she is likely avisual, relying on her sense of smell and whiskers to navigate.

The mother opossum is still caring for her young and has been housed in a smaller outdoor enclosure in the Center’s mammal complex; these factors make it difficult to formally assess the opossum’s ability to function appropriately.

On April 8, the staff moved the opossum and her young to a larger space; this will give her more space to raise her young and will allow staff to better assess her later.

Opossum #16-0101 will continue to raise her young here at the Center and will be evaluated again in the coming weeks.