Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Opossum Babies 01

Opossums are excellent tree climbers but these babies are not ready to fend for themselves. I found these three opossum babies struggling on a branch without their mother anywhere nearby. So, I filmed them for quite some time but the mother still wouldn’t show up hours later. After a few hours of filming I realized that the babies must be in danger of dehydration. Therefore, I took them to a wildlife rehabilitation center to be cared for. 

Adult opossums are usually solitary and nomadic, staying in one area as long as food and water are easily available. Some families will group together in ready-made burrows or even under houses. Though they will temporarily occupy abandoned burrows, they do not dig or put much effort into building their own. As nocturnal animals, they favor dark, secure areas. These areas may be below ground or above.

When threatened or harmed, they will "play possum” mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal. This physiological response is involuntary (like fainting), rather than a conscious act. In the case of baby opossums, however, their brain does not always react this way at the appropriate moment, and therefore they often fail to "play dead" when threatened. When "playing possum", the animal's lips are drawn back, the teeth are bared, saliva foams around the mouth, the eyes close or half-close, and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from the anal glands. Their stiff, curled form can be prodded, turned over, and even carried away without reaction. The animal will typically regain consciousness after a period of between 40 minutes and 4 hours, a process which begins with slight twitching of the ears.

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