It's time to talk opossum (pronounced "POSSum")! Wild Things has had 14 opossums come to stay this summer, and all but one have been successfully released back into the wild.
Virginia opossums are North America's only marsupial. Marsupials give birth to young that are undeveloped. The young then crawl into a pouch on the mother and attach to a nipple. Here they continue to grow and start emerging from the pouch to explore at about 3 months of age. Most marsupials live Down Under (e.g., kangaroos, koalas, wombats, tasmanian devils). Quite apart from their gestational differences from placental mammals (mammals who have a placenta and who give birth to more developed young, like us!), marsupials have other interesting biological differences. For example, they have no corpus callosum, the main bridge of neurons that communicates between the two halves of the brain. They have other ways that the opossite sides of their brains exchange information, but differences like this suggest that marsupials broke off from the rest of the mammals a long time ago on the evolutionary tree of life.
Opossums generally have large litters and live only a few years in the wild. They are nocturnal and though all the ones that I have raised are sweet with me, they can be pretty aggressive. Because they do not have a well developed sucking reflex and there are so many in each litter, babies are all tube fed (the feeder, i.e. me, inserts a tiny tube down their throats and into their tummies) to ensure that they get all the nutrients they need in a timely fashion!
Everyone has a different personality, like Itsy-Bitsy below! He was such a funny little fellow! And then there was Jelly Bean, who spent a week in a local bakery before being caught. During that week she lived on jelly beans and came in with flourescent green poop to proove it. She was not very impressed with me and my healthy nutrition regime for her. Everytime I picked her up she squireted explosive diarrhea at me as a defense, and chomped my finger rather badly!
Here is beautiful Suzanne, her son Gus (dressed as Mr. Incredible!), and one of the friendly little opossum babies. Suzanne is a great supporter of Wild Things!
Below is a picture taken on the night of a release. They may not be sure at first, but then they disappear into the woods. It's sad to see them go, and I worry about them! But I know they are a good size to do well on their own!
The blue bin in the front of their cage is their litter box- yes! They are litter trainable, which makes them very good guests to look after! :)
And one last one, Itsy-Bitsy, now much bigger, just before his release, enjoying the luxury of Wild Things!!