Virginia Opossum #24-1019

Admitted
May 1, 2024
Rescue Location
Albemarle County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Orphan, suspected attack by a dog
Status
Current Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On April 30, a homeowner in Crozet found a juvenile Virginia Opossum in her yard with no mother in sight. After speaking with a neighbor, the homeowner learned that a mother opossum had been killed by a dog on the neighbor's property; suspecting the opossum to be one of the deceased mother's young, the homeowner contained the opossum and brought her to the Center the next morning.

A radiograph of an opossum with a fracture to the left femur, circled in red.

On admission, the young opossum was noted to be dragging her left hind leg when she attempted to walk; radiographs revealed that the femur in that leg was fractured. It can be challenging to repair fractures in bones this small, but Senior Veterinary Intern Dr. Olivia successfully stabilized the fracture by surgically implanting a pin. The pin -- only 0.9mm thick -- was much longer than the opossum's leg and needed to be cut to just the right length. After fitting and inserting the pin, the vet team bandaged the leg and started the opossum on a course of antibiotics and pain medication. 

During the next week, the vet team cleaned and re-bandaged the opossum's leg daily. On May 6, a repeat set of radiographs showed the fracture was starting to heal; by May 13, the pin was removed and the opossum was ready to begin physical therapy. During physical therapy sessions, the opossum is encouraged by vet staff to walk as best she can for a period of 5 minutes. The opossum has shown mild improvement in her ability to bear weight, and can now climb in her enclosure despite the injury, but she still  "knuckles" when she walks and needs to make a lot of progress in order to make it to release.  

Virginia Opossums are reliant on their mothers for the first four to five months of their lives, after which they will disperse and become fully independent. If you find a young opossum without its mother, like this one, click here to learn how to assess if it needs help.

And remember, it is important to keep an eye on dogs when they are let outdoors to prevent interactions with wildlife. For information on how to handle and avoid wildlife conflicts, visit our help and advice page.

You can help support our work with native wildlife.

Your donation will help provide veterinary medical care to this injured juvenile opossum and approximately 4,000 other patients that the Wildlife Center will help this year.

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Patient Updates

During the past month, opossum #24-1019 has made incredible progress. After several weeks of physical therapy, the opossum no longer “knuckles” on her left hind leg, and she is now able to walk normally. You can see the improved mobility in this video taken by Dr. Olivia! 

At the same time, the opossum has been quickly growing – she is more than six times the weight she was on admission, and has exhibited the behaviors necessary to survive in the wild. On June 17, the opossum was officially cleared for release by the veterinary team. 

Dr. Olivia and outreach supervisor Connor plan to release the opossum on Thursday, June 20, around 6:00 pm Eastern and will live stream the release on the Center's Facebook page. Tune in to hear Dr. Olivia talk about the opossum's rehabilitation at the Center and see the opossum return home!