A glimps into the world of wildlife rehabilitation…the world through a rehabber's eyes.

Posts tagged “Opossum

Willow’s Mini Adventures X-(


Do you remember little Willow? That super cute baby opossum picture from the previous post? Well, she has two roomies now, and her little enclosure was getting quite cramped. So last night I moved the three little opies to a new, bigger, airier enclosure. Complete with fresh blankies, bedding, and snazzy new water bottle so they would quit tipping the bowl! What I didn’t account for was tenacious little Willow, and the three relatively large doors at the front of the cage!

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Now, little Willow has always been quite tenacious…for an opossum…and there certainly has been no exception lately…while my two newbies cower in the corner piled on top of one another (safety in numbers and all that jazz), Willow is strollin every inch of her new digs…and noting every weakness in it’s  defenses! From 7 this morning till now 10pm, it has been a non-stop game of hide-and-seek with her! Three times she got away, and on that third trip back to the nursery, I secured those doors down with bread ties…or so I thought. I walked through to get myself a snack, looked down at my opie nursery, and realized I was an opie short again!

Sure enough, Willow had slipped away…for the fourth time. I paid it no mind…she quickly makes her whereabouts known…opossums are not renowned for their stealth mode, you know. However, hours passed, and still no sign of my little rogue.

Opossums being predominately nocturnal, I always wait till late in the evening to feed them. Fresh food makes happy tummies! :)…and keeping a schedule is a good way to get in some behavioral conditioning! Like clockwork, I went to feed my wee wards. As I reached down to grab their bowl, the third little set of beady eyes I had been searching for all day peered up at me from the corner of the room as if to say “well, it’s about time you brought me my dinner! Where have you BEEN?!”.

I snatched her up, and tossed her back in with her friends, and THIS time, I DID secure those doors! *sigh* one up-ed by an opossum…at least one of us is giggling about the whole thing *roll eyes*

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There’s a bobcat on my patio/in my yard! How do I get rid of it?!


Okay guys, fair warning, this is gonna be a long one!

I get asked this question on a regular basis. My response is always the same. I ask the concerned party why they want this animal removed from it’s home. They cite numerous fears for their reasoning. “Won’t it attack my pets? Won’t it attack my children/grand children?” The answer is no. No, a bobcat is not a blood thirsty monster waiting to pounce on the first human it sees. No, it does not want to work hard enough to try to catch your dog/cat.

Of course, common sense in good measures is always reasonable when dealing with any wildlife. Cats and dogs should always be supervised outside. Just remember, the house you chose to live in because of it’s beautiful trees, manicured grass, and great lot size (not to mention the great pond with a walking path just around the corner) are all the same reasons that the bobcat chose it to be her home too.

Here’s a little food for thought. Chances are, her and her family were there first (and have been for generations! They thank you for that beautiful hardwood deck with the open bottom, the great storage shed with a concrete floor that makes it feel soo much cooler in these hot Texas summers, that wonderful privacy fence lined with dense, low growing shrubs that offers so much security and seclusion, and the absolutely inviting koi pond with the bench swing that you love so much! They thank you for providing them with protection, security, habitat for them and their prey, and a steady water source!).

Just remember, wildlife is attracted to the same things we are. Privacy, safety, food, water, and shelter. The only way to prevent wildlife from living in “your space” is to move into a concrete bunker…and even then, I’m sure the geckos and spiders will be more than happy to hang out at your place! It is impossible and impractical to remove all wildlife from “your territory”. Instead, what I personally strive to do is encourage wildlife that are beneficial for my goals while simultaneously discouraging wildlife that does the opposite.

Here’s a fun example. How much money do you spend on watering and fertilizing your beautiful lawn and landscaping every month? A lot, huh? Have you considered inviting creatures that already specialize in landscaping? Providing native bees and butterflies with nectar plants (and food plants for caterpillars!) along side your carefully selected asthetic plants will attract these guys to your yard and keep your landscaping looking beautiful year after year. These guys will pollinate your flowers and help you cultivate your garden! Providing plants like white cabbage and passion vine will just keep them coming back as the butterflies look for food plants to lay their eggs on and nectar plants to keep their energy up!

I have an irregular awkward little spot in my yard that is hard to do anything with….it’s hard to mow due to it’s odd shape, it’s quite far away from the sprinkler system, and from the house making it hard to water, so instead of trying to make it look lush and green like the rest of my lawn, I plowed it up, and turned it into a low water butterfly/veggie garden. I surrounded my nectar plants with food plants for my caterpillars, and sprinkled them amongst my veggies and fruits. It is never touched by pesticides or fertilizers (or any other harsh chemicals) and It works beautifully!

Want another example? How many of you out there pay for pest control services? Incorporating self sustaining habits into your lifestyle could help you live more comfortably with the wildlife around you! I live on 3/4 of an acre, in a heavily wooded neighborhood (in my yard alone, there are over 100 trees). I also keep chickens, compost green materials from my kitchen, and keep cords of firewood outside for winter. This can attract some unwanted wildlife in the form of rats, mice, snakes, and roaches. My solution? provide habitat for my local opossums! I love opies! And I would love to tell you why!

Most people see a Virgina opossum, and they describe them as pointy nosed, beady eyed,naked tailed, over-grown rats. I have to say, I can’t really disagree…they aren’t the most beautiful creatures out there, but I LOVE seeing them in my yard! (and if you give them a chance, those beady eyes may just grow on ya a little!). Isn’t Willow just darling?

Remember those creepy crawlies I mentioned a minute ago? Rats, mice, snakes, and roaches? Can you guess what some of an opie’s favorite foods are? You got it. SO, by providing plenty of sheltered spots and a bowl of water on my back porch for my ugly little friends, I cut down on large numbers of the afore-mentioned! Best of all, I didn’t pay hundreds of dollars for some guy in a haz-mat suit to spray all kinds of harsh chemicals all over the yard and house where kids and animals play! WIN!

BONUS: you people that fear snakes, pay attention! the only snake venom that affects opossums is coral snake venom! Opossums are IMMUNE to snake venom! Translation: Opossums can eat almost every snake found in Texas.

I may or may not have mentioned it on this blog before, but as well as being a behavioral specialist for The Wildlife Center at Crosstimbers Ranch, I work as an Animal Services Officer for a major city in North Texas. I am certified by the state of Texas to carry the title of Officer. The benefit of wearing two hats is the ability to tell you what happens on both sides of the story! That, and I often get to give the wildlife that ends up at our shelter a fresh start. I don’t like seeing healthy adult wildlife come into the shelter. There is no reason for it. At best, it is frivolously exposing these animals un-necessary stress, and every disease known to animal kind. There is one upside for me though! I get to release lots of healthy adult opossums (after a period of quarantine and conditioning! Don’t try this without proper training…survival rates for animals of any species that are nothing more than relocated are abysmal, and cause a multitude of other problems in the habitat if not done properly) at my house to chow down on the excess of rats and snakes that love living in my wooded area!

Okay, okay, some of you are thinking “I don’t want that ugly disease carrying animal in my yard!”…admit it, you’re thinking it! Well, let me put a wide spread opossum myth to rest for you. Contrary to seemingly popular belief, opossums are not carriers for rabies! Let me say that again. Opossums are NOT carriers for rabies! Now, some of you may be thinking “what does she know? she’s just a dirty, tree hugging, dog catching hippy! Any nocturnal animal active during the day must be sick, probably with rabies!”

Well, I do raise chickens, I compost, I recycle, and I do love animals, but by no means am I uneducated in my profession! Remember the pesky state of Texas? they keep harping on me to know stuff for some reason! Don’t believe me? Our very good friends at the DFW Wildlife Coalition agree! http://www.dfwwildlife.org/opossum.html Arm yourself with education! ❤

Let me temper my previous statement by saying that there have been known cases of rabies in opossums, but they are exceedingly rare. I want to make sure you absorb all of what I am saying, so I will repeat. Cases of rabies in opossums are so exceedingly rare that they cannot be considered carriers for the virus. Known cases of rabies in opossums are under bizarre circumstances in which the virus has been introduced directly into the brain tissue necessary for the virus to replicate. The reason? Well, we aren’t quite sure, but our best guess is that the opossum’s primitive makeup (it’s nervous system [ the channels the virus would take to enter the brain ] is not as developed and connected as modern mammals) and oddly low body temperature actually offers it some manor of protection from the virus. Actually, for this same reason, opossums are not really carriers of any diseases…they even enjoy immunity from dog and cat ailments like distemper! Not a bad trade off for such a short lifespan!

Key points! Pay your opies in shelter and water, and they will do your clean-up for you! Their services are effective for long term use, and incorporate all natural ingredients, free of charge!

What if the wildlife you are dealing with isn’t a prey animal but a predator? Well, I have examples for that scenario too! First, ask yourself why you want that animal removed. For me, it was a fox. She was absolutely gorgeous! Stunningly beautiful coat, very large individual. She had taken up residence under my shed. Over the course of several months, she thinned down my flock of 15 chickens down to four! I couldn’t let my girls free range and forage anymore due to this very persistent predator. The most frustrating part was that she was killing three or four chickens at a time, just to kill them. She was not eating them, just playing with them. The final straw was when she swiped my tiny frizzled bantie named Karma, and then took some chickens from my neighbors…young kids that I had given some chickens to. She had to go.

Why did I wait four months to do something about this animal? It was spring time, and I feared that she had kits under my shed that would perish without their mother. Fair is fair, and I had invited her into my yard by providing her with the perfect den, and easy access to food and water for her kits. But, now it was time for her to go! I could not have her ruining my young neghbor’s experience of raising backyard chickens!

What did I do? Well, I trapped my fox, and did something I am all too familiar with…I strapped on some elbow pads, and crawled under that shed! It was not a pleasant experience, but I found that my darling fox was not providing for kits. So, I sealed off the bottom of my shed using 3/4inch hardware cloth, a staple gun, and some landscaping bricks to make it look pretty, sprung the trap, and watched that beautiful animal bound away. I have not seen her since, and have not lost any chickens since then.

We humans seem to have this rather deep rooted fear of anything predator. Most of the predators we deal with here in Texas are going to be no bigger than a bobcat or a fox. At the largest, they are around twenty pounds…that’s about the size of a cocker spaniel if you need a size reference. The chances of an animal that small being tenacious enough to take on a kid or a dog are extremely minimal. Bobcats (and foxes) are not terribly brave, especially not the ones we deal with here in urban settings. They would not waste the energy on something so large. Bunnies and squirrels (and the occasional chicken! grumble grumble!) are more their speed.

So just sit back, relax, and enjoy your urban wildlife! If it isn’t being a nuisance, get it to work to your advantage (or just enjoy the eye candy!), if it IS, talk to us! We can help you find practical ways to resolve the problem! Not every wild animal needs to be “fixed” by a rehabber!


WREN classes starting again!


Okay, I can admit it, our experimental expedited WREN class did not go over as we had planned! So, after some re-planning, we are again preparing to hold new full length WREN classes! Interested in becoming a permitted rehabber? Curious about wild animal care? Or do you just want some really good knowledge? Well, come join us for a brand new session of WREN classes hosted by The Wildlife Center at Crosstimbers Ranch!

We have not offered classes for a while, and the demand has not slowed. Space is extremely limited, and we already have quite a few students on our roster, so if you are interested, please contact us immediately! Classes will be held from February 11 to March 31st, 10am-4pm. Tuition cost will be $350 per student.

You can contact us at kari@crosstimberswildlife.org OR getwild@crosstimberswildlife.org

Register for WREN here! http://crosstimberswildlife.org/wren_class_registration Remember, registration is on a first come, first served basis, and space is limited! Once this class has been filled, no further registrations will be accepted!


Abigale’s new room mate


On the way to Terrell, with Abigale in the passenger seat, I stopped in Dallas to pick up a new opossum from another rehabber. They rode together in Abigale’s carrier up to WCCR, and got aquainted in their new enclosure.

Abigale is still thin, and not acting quite normal. She got wormed today, and a fresh plate of food. Wet cat food! Yum!

This is Opossum Hollow. WCCR is equiped to handle massive amounts of wildlife. Last year, more than 4,000 animals came through our doors. The first enclosure is the only one with opossums in it. Normally, durring the busy season, all of these would have opossums in them. Right now, Abigale, and her new room mate (named Betty) are the only ones.

Betty will probably only be in the enclosure for a few more days to let her ged aclemated to her new surroundings. Abigale will be okay though. Opossums are pretty solitary. They enjoy their alone time 🙂


Abigale is going to the Ranch


Tomorrow, I am getting up early to head to WCCR. I am taking Abigale with me. I will also be making a stop in Dallas to pick up one other from another rehabber.

The night I picked up Abigale, I suspected she may be blind. I tried to relocate her, and normally when we do this, they run as fast as their short little legs can take them into the nearest brushy patch. Abigale just sat there. I nudged her to encorage her to go, but she stayed. So, I picked her up, put her back in the kennel, and brought her home.

She is still really skinny, but the whole time she has been in my care, she has had a voracious appetite. Today, she didn’t touch any of her food. Normally, I feed her first thing when I get home (usually around midnight which just so happens to be the time when opossums are active). her diet has fairly consistantly included soaked dog food, fresh fruits and veggies, leafy greens, and  a raw egg. Today, not only did I not feed her at the usual time, but I gave her mainly leafy greens, a few grapes, and a handful of dry dog food, and no egg (far lower in protien and calories than what I normally provide). Maybe I am spoiling her….or maybe there is something wrong.

I have to wonder if she has vision problems, because if I do not disturb her sensitive wiskers, I can nearly touch her eye. This eye in particular seems to have issues. If you look at the photo carefully, the eye looks alittle dull and cloudy. She also usually tries to keep this eye to the wall.

Opossums are pretty non-agressive, so it doesn’t suprise me that she allows me to handle her (don’t try this at home, kids! Opossums may be docile, but they still have teeth, and they like to eat dead things. That means LOTS of bacteria in their mouths!).

She also still seems to have a few fleas. I de-fleaed her again tonight, just to play it safe. I tried to give her fluids, but I am having a hard time with it tonight for some reason. I am going to try again in a bit. When I get her to the ranch tomorrow, maybe I can get someone else to look her over and confirm wether or not she is blind, or vision compromised.

Either way, she will probably end up being soft released on the ranch grounds, so she will have food available in a regular location. She still needs some time to build up her strength, but she should do fine out there when the time comes.

I just hope her not eatting anything tonight isn’t a sign that there is something more seriously wrong with her.


Sweet Abigale feels better tonight


Abigale is much more active tonight. This is the first time that she has really reacted to having sub-q fluids. I will probably give her one last dose tomorrow depending on how she is.

I cover her head with a blanket while I am doing this just to help her feel more secure and calm. Most of the time she just sits and lets me do my thing. Tonight, she actually reacted to the fluids being administered for the first time. This is a good sign. It means she is feeling much better.

After, she poked her head out of the blanket to inspect my work. Her body condition has improved dramatically over the past few days. The points of her hips and spine are far less defined than they were three days ago, and her ribs now have an almost normal pad of flesh over them. Her apetite is really good. She eats every scrap of food I put infront of her, and I have been filling the bowl.

Tonight is more soaked dog food, fresh greens, a raw egg, some grapes, and carrot pieces. I expect the bowl will be empty by morning. I am glad she is eatting so well. She needs all the nutrition she can get. 

I still plan on worming her this weekend and then maybe it will be time for her to be wild again. She is almost ready!


Treating Abigale


I finally really got my hands on Abigale. I have started her on sub-q fluids. I have given her a couple of days to destress and aclimate to her surroundings before really doing anything with her. I looked her over thoroughly today. She doesn’t have any major injuries, but she is VERY thin. I can feel the points of her hips, and her spine. She has been eatting very well the past couple of days, so I am a bit suprised that she is that thin, but the way she is acting, I am not completely suprised by it. Her belly is also rather firm, indicating a heavy internal parasite load. I will be going to the ranch again this weekend, and I will see about worming her then.

I brought her inside to administer fluids. You can see the bulge on her side where I gave them to her. Sorry I could not take a picture of the process, but I didn’t have enough hands!

Tonight, dinner is soaked dog food, to ensure she is getting plenty of protien, a raw egg, blueberries, banana pieces, and a few mealworms.

There is also some liquid vitamins in the mix. Looks delicious, no? She isn’t too happy with me for the fluids, but she will thank me later. They will help her feel better. Once she is back up to a good body weight, and acting normal, I will make her wild again.

Maybe not as glamerous as rehabilitating a bobcat, but for Abigale, I made a difference; even if she won’t appreciate it 🙂