Jan 25, 2022

A Staff Member's Perspective: An Opossum’s Journey

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A certified wildlife veterinary technician at Dane County Humane Society's Wildlife Center shares the admission to release of one of the crankiest mammals to come through the center's doors.

One afternoon in early December 2021, a member of the public was walking their dog and happened upon a juvenile Virginia opossum that was stuck in a recycling bin on the side of the street. The finder wasn’t sure how long it had been trapped.

Dane County Animal Services was called to pick up the opossum for transport to DCHS’s Wildlife Center. The opossum may have been one of the crankiest mammals that staff has ever had the pleasure of working with.

Below is certified Wildlife Veterinary Technician Erin Lemley’s account of the opossum’s journey from admission to release:

I released the most amazing opossum this week. It was sadly too dark for me to get any video footage, so I wrote you a story about it instead! You will have to use your imagination, but he was originally found in a recycling bin and covered in something greasy. He was also wounded with a LOT of blood on one ear.

Once we got him in to the Wildlife Center, it was clear that he wasn't too badly injured, and although his ear had some lacerations, they were pretty minor and had just bled a lot. We sedated him for a full physical exam and then gave him a bath, which he didn't like very much even while he was still sleepy.

Pretty soon, everything looked great, and he was ready for release after only a short stay (six days) in rehabilitation here at DCHS. On release night, the other staff packed him up in a cat-crate for me, and I put him in the car to drive him to the release site. He was quiet the whole time until I got there.

As soon as I opened the car door… he grabbed the bars of the carrier door and started shaking it really hard. I think he knew exactly where we were and wanted me to let him out RIGHT THEN. I walked him into the woods a little ways off the train tracks where there were some good hiding places, and the whole time he continued to rattle the bars with his little opossum hands.

As soon as I set down the crate and opened the door it was: ZOOM! He was off like a shot, waddling as fast as I've ever seen an opossum run. Usually, opossums seem willing to stay in the crate for a couple of hours, but not this one! He was so glad to be home, and he never looked back once.


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