Guilford County, North Carolina  

Wildlife Emergency

Located in Guilford County, NC, Piedmont Wildlife Rehab, Inc. is classified 501(c)(3) by the IRS, donations are tax deductible.

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Found an opossum

Orphaned baby opossums

If you need to find a local wildlife rehabilitator please use this link. Locating Rehabbers.

Opossums are North America's only marsupial in which up to 13 infants can be carried in the mother's pouch where they attach themselves to a nipple for approximately 2 to 3 months. After they are weaned, they leave the pouch and climb onto the mother's back for another 1 to 2 months when they are away from the den. Opossums are omnivores, and their diet consists not only of snails and slugs but fruit, vegetables and carrion which is why they are often hit by cars while scavenging for roadkill. Some of the babies may survive the impact and can be saved by removing them from the pouch. If you see an injured or dead opossum and there is movement in the mother's pouch area of the stomach there may be infants still alive. ONLY IF IT IS SAFE TO DO SO, remove the mother from the road and place in a box using thick gloves or a shovel if you do not want to touch the animal. You should immediately transport the animal to a veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator who can safely remove the young from the pouch. If any of the young have left the pouch, wrap them in a soft cloth such as fleece or t-shirt and place in the box with the mother. Opossums are generally docile animals, however, an injured or threatened opossum may bite in self defense. If you are not comfortable moving an injured or dead opossum, please call a wildlife rehabilitator or someone you know who is willing to do so. If you call a rehabilitator, please stay with the animal until they arrive so the animal can be located as quickly as possible.

When is an opossum really an orphan? Many opossums become orphaned after the mother is killed or when they fall from her back and somehow become separated. Some juveniles out on their own for the first time are brought to rehabilitators when they are not true orphans. Unless they are sick, injured or in danger from predators, only opossums less than 7 inches from nose to rump not including the tail should require immediate assistance. If you find a young opossum, check the surrounding area as there may be more. Listen for a "sneezing" type sound that they make when separated from the mother. They may also make a hissing noise when approached and scared. It is illegal in North Carolina to keep a native mammal in captivity without a license. However, you can provide temporary assistance until the animal is with a veterinarian, licensed rehabber, or zoo.

Is it really dead? If the opossum is not severely injured in the road it may be "playing possum", an involuntary response to danger. They may appear dead but be unconscious and stiff and you may notice green or clear body fluids. It is recommended you wait up to four hours before disposing of the body.

What to do until help can be found:

First, get it warm. Injured Opossums and babies that are less than 7 inches from head to rump are in need of immediate assistance. The worst dangers to the orphans are chilling and dehydration. You can provide temporary care until help arrives by placing the infants in a box, basket or plastic container lined with fleece or cotton material such as t-shirts, sweat shirts or blankets cut into smaller pieces. Cover them with the same material and provide a heat source such as a heating pad set on low underneath one half of the box or container. Alternative heat sources are hot water bottles, plastic bottles filled with warm water, heated bean bags, etc. Cover the heat source and place the infants near but not in direct contact with the heat source. The temperature should be warm and not hot. Do not use terrycloth because of the danger of their toes or nails getting caught in the threads.

Please use caution, proper diet and handling is critical to their survival. Always keep the Opossum away from pets and children, handle as little as possible. Keeping it wild helps guarantee a successful release back into the wild.

DO NOT GIVE BABY OPOSSUMS COWS MILK! If the babies are older, well furred and able to drink on their own you may try to give them fluids to keep them hydrated but we recommend you talk to a rehabilitator first. Often Pedialyte is used to rehydrate human infants and is readily available in most grocery stores and pharmacies.

Infants and older babies need stimulation to eliminate. Infants can die from a ruptured bladder. To help eliminate, hold the baby in one hand with feet down and using a wet, warm tissue, soft cloth or cotton ball gently stroke the genital area downward towards the tail until urine or feces or both is produced. Continue until no more is produced.

We challenge you to learn more about North Americans special marsupial. Much about them is still unknown to us but anyone that has worked with them can confirm their shy, solitary nature and usefulness.

If you need to find a local wildlife rehabilitator please use this link. Locating Rehabbers.