Tag Archives: opossum

To The Guy Who Drove Over the Injured Opossum

Unlike with people, there is no emergency system in place for injured wild animals; no expectation that help will be on the way as soon as someone notices your accident and dire need for medical care. Unfortunately, unavoidable collisions with animals happen all the time and many animals don’t die upon impact even when the trauma is incredibly severe and injuries are fatal. There is nothing they can do when it happens.

I’m also very aware that at any given time, drivers may have only a split second to make a judgement and react – avoid an animal if possible or risk injury and potential devastation to other drivers. I totally get that, which is why I was completely shocked that the driver of a truck that could have avoided an injured opossum in the road, or even just slowed down, chose not to do so and drove right over him.

Not five minutes after leaving a restaurant to head home, I saw an opossum sitting upright in the opposite lane of a two-lane rural road. Instantly my heart skipped a beat and my stomach dropped as I saw him try to slowly raise his head. I knew he had been hit. He tried standing up but couldn’t. The movement was so slow and labored. I could see him trying to lift a leg that was extensively injured, but he couldn’t move forward.

As soon as I could, I pulled over and back around with my hazards on. As I put the car in park, a large white truck had come up the same lane. As the opossum’s head slowly turned, the truck went barreling over him. The sight was such a shock I couldn’t even scream. The truck was tall enough to pass over his head, and he remained upright despite getting rocked from the rush of air that came from the vehicle going about 50 mph.

The only thing I had in my car was my old sweatshirt I wore to the wildlife center, so I grabbed it.

Two other passers-by saw what I was about to do so they kindly slowed down and drove by in the other lane that was completely clear. The opossum was still hunched over in an upright position but not moving. I gently placed the sweatshirt over him, carried him over to my car, and placed him in my trunk. Not a flinch, not a hiss.

It was after-hours at the wildlife center where I volunteer but fortunately I was able to get ahold of someone who lived close enough and was willing to come over and help. She gently lifted him out of my car, brought him inside, and started to pull the sweatshirt back for an exam. It didn’t take long for her to say she was going to take him outside. I knew what that meant. That meant that he wouldn’t have to suffer much longer. It meant that soon he’d fall asleep; the confusion and agony of what had happened would be over.

I suppose there could have been other reasons the truck drove right over him, but since I saw the whole thing, I can only assume he didn’t give a shit. If that was the case, he’s certainly not the only one.

#SomeBadassesAreMarsupials

I never gave thought to opossums one way or the other until I met Snitch, a disabled opossum education animal at Fox Valley Wildlife Center. She was hit by a car and survived, but suffered neurological trauma, lost her vision, and also some teeth. She is why I learned just how cool, and misunderstood, these mammals are.

Arden Joel holding a disabled opossum

Joel and I keeping Snitch toasty in some blankies at a fundraising event in 2012.

Now that I know better, I’d gladly welcome them into our yard should they choose to visit and provide free cleanup services. I’d never pick up a wild one to pet and cuddle, understandably they get defensive and scared like any other animal that feels threatened, but there is no reason at all to hate.

The initial accident with the opossum may have been unavoidable, but callously driving over him was. Moments like that remind me that I live in an incredibly selfish and neglectful world. However, the kindness and compassion of a young lady who unselfishly answered the call to help end his suffering, reminds me that not everyone is so heartless.

Sometimes there are things can you do to help in these situations and sometimes there aren’t. I get that. But life in the wild is tough enough and there is no need to make it tougher. Have a heart, have some compassion, and please give a shit.

Good to keep handy, Animal Help Now is a resource for wildlife care contacts across the U.S. https://ahnow.org/#/

“Don’t be a hater. Please brake for awesome possums.” – The Awesome Opossum, Center for Biological Diversity

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A Big Boy Beak, Goosey Squeaks, and Lots of Teeth

Saturdays filled with feathers and fur are once again winding down for the year. I already miss the demanding shrieks of hungry baby birds and it has just barely begun to snow here around Chicago.

No two visits to the wildlife rehabilitation center are ever the same. The guests, as I like to refer to them, come in for numerous reasons and I never know how long they’re going to stay. If asked, I’m sure they’d all like an early checkout and I wouldn’t blame them a bit. If something in a big predator suit put me in a confined space and handled me a bit here and there, I too would execute every life saving measure to get away, even from predators who bore a striking resemblance to nice ladies in sensible glasses wearing cute duck t-shirts. I give my kindest expression and will thoughts of pure comfort and well-being while providing care in efforts to calm them but it doesn’t generally work. That’s just the way it goes.

This past year seemed extra special and I’m sure it has had much to do with seeing a greater variety of birds and several new experiences in general with all the animals. I got a warning nip from an owl, was completely startled by a raccoon that patted me on the shoulder, secured a heron’s leg during an exam, provided bird physical therapy, fed a fox, and was winked at by a turtle. Aside from many songbirds I’d cared for previously, new to my own eyes at the center was a scarlet tanager, nightjar, black-capped chickadee, pheasant, peacock, turkey, sora, button quail, sandhill crane, snow goose, peking duck, great blue heron, and grouse. I’d like to give an honorable mention to a snapping turtle that spent a little time lodging in the bird room, too.

A Few Guests of 2012

Juvenile Male Cardinal

Juvenile Male Cardinal (the spot is from mashed berries)

Northern Cardinal: This handsome little fella completely stole my heart. I was there the day he came to the wildlife center as a squawky, sparsely-feathered nestling and there the day he took his first flight of freedom. I watched him eat his first solids, and over time, develop his big boy beak and grow a tail. I am so honored and privileged to have played a role on the team who helped this particular little bird get a second chance. As the first bird that fascinated me as a child, the northern cardinal will always have a special place in my heart. All About Birds: Northern Cardinals

Goslings

Goslings

Goslings: The center was filled with the melodious sounds of squeaky young waterfowl. Here are a few goslings that were successfully cared for through to release. As these little goslings tottered and staggered about with their itty bitty baby wing nubbins out for balance, it was amazing to know that they would eventually grow to approximately one and a half times the size of their adult bodies in order to heft them up in flight, and at times, whack nice ladies in sensible glasses who would try to provide them with room service. All About Birds: Canada Goose

Young Virginia Opossum

Young Virginia Opossum

Opossum: This year I learned some pretty cool facts about opossums. As the only marsupials in North America, opossums are immune to rattle snake venom and rabies. When they flash those pearly whites, they’re flashing 50 of them, more than any other North American mammal. Even if you don’t find their hand-like paws endearing, please give opossums a break. They are scavengers that help clean up nature’s waste. The National Opossum Society

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey: I am not sure how it came to be that this adult turkey* found his way to the center. I thought that this collection of photos was much more satisfying and representative of the experience of trying to get the perfect shot than the perfect shot itself. He was silly, curious, and sweet. Seeing that he was already people-friendly and was not going to be released in the wild, I was allowed to speak to him and touch him. I was told that he liked to be petted, so I rubbed his chest and buried my hand in his thick, soft feathers. Let’s just say…he didn’t hate it.

Swinhoe's Pheasant

Swinhoe’s Pheasant

Pheasant: Like the turkey, I unfortunately don’t know the history of two identical-looking pheasants that were shuttled to the center. The other bird, not pictured, had an injured foot that successfully healed. I snapped a photo of this curious bird having a little look-see while stretching her legs. Someone on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Face Book page suggested that this is a swinhoe’s pheasant.GBWF.org: Swinhoe’s Pheasant

New Animal Ambassadors

Wooka the Northern Flicker

Wooka the Northern Flicker

Wooka: You could say that Wooka, a male northern flicker, relocated for work. Originally cared for by the wildlife center’s specialist at a center in North Carolina, he joined the animal ambassador team at the end of summer. He is underdeveloped with only one eye and misshapen toes that do not allow him to climb well. However, doing what woodpeckers do best, Wooka likes to peck and lick his pb n’ o (peanut butter and orange) treats. He was a hit with the children who learned more about woodpeckers, other wild birds, and many other kinds of local wildlife at the center’s open house. All About Birds: Northern Flicker

Zhyna

Zihna, Red-tailed Hawk


Zihna: Zihna is a Red-tailed hawk that joined the animal ambassador team in 2012. He was brought in having suffered a head injury. It was later determined that he unfortunately could not be released. Zihna sits very nicely on a perch while demonstrating his laser-like focus on moving objects. Thanks to training by staff, he is now able to accompany the other animals on educational program outings. All About Birds: Red-tailed Hawk

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noah cottontail rabbit

Noah, Cottontail Rabbit

Noah: Noah is without vision. The wildlife center director explained that not having eyes could have been due to a rare birth defect or due to an infection prior to birth. As he is unable to see, he did not vacate the nest with the rest of his siblings when they were mature enough to leave. His reluctance to leave was observed by a home owner who originally took notice of mother rabbit’s nest in her yard. Sweet and full of energy, he is the most recent mammal addition to the ambassador team. He loves his hay and assorted bunny nibbles. National Geographic: Cottontail Rabbit

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The new ambassadors join the ranks of Lucy the Canada goose, Toby the 3 toed box turtle, and Ernie the pigeon.

To a casual observer, I am changing soiled towels in a bird cage or giving a dish of fruit to some squirrels. For me though, it’s the thrill of connecting with and providing care for these amazing creatures that do not have a voice to ask for help. I gasped when I saw the most brilliant red-orange I had ever seen on the tanager. It is completely arresting to lock eyes with a wary, soulful fox. The antics of squirrels just being squirrels make for some of the best free entertainment out there. They give back to us tenfold with the opportunity to once again enjoy their charm and beauty back out in the wild.

Many more new guests will arrive in spring, and I hope that I am there once again to accommodate their needs during their stay.

*I am not sure of the species. Please free to add it to the comments section if you know or have a good guess!