What to do if you find…

Understanding Opossums

Baby Opossums

If you find a baby opossum wandering around your yard, first establish that the baby opossum needs to be rescued. Only opossums that are sick, injured, or too young to be on their own (less than 7 inches long from nose to rump, not including tail) are in need of immediate assistance.

If the baby looks healthy AND is at least 7 inches long from head to rump (not including tail), it is best to wait and watch from a distance for one to two hours before taking action. It’s possible that the young opossum has gained its independence from mom and it doing just fine or has been temporarily separated from its mother who may return for her baby.

If the baby opossum is less than 7 inches long from head to rump (not including tail), it’s time to bring the baby to Native Animal Rescue following these instructions.

1. Always wear gloves when handling opossums.

2. Warm a soft cloth in the dryer or in the microwave oven for no more than 30 seconds and place it in the bottom of a box with air holes and a lid.

3. Carefully lift the baby by the scruff of the neck and place it in the ventilated box. Make sure the box has a lid so the opossum can’t climb out.

4. Close the box and immediately bring it to Native Animal Rescue.

5. If you are uncomfortable handling the baby, call Native Animal Rescue at 831-462-0726.

Injured Adult Opossum

Sometimes, a threatened opossum may be “playing possum,” an involuntary response to a threat, in which the opossum becomes comatose in the face of danger and appears dead. This may last from 40 minutes to 4 hours. This fascinating defense mechanism helps the opossum survive an attack from a predator because many predators give up the attack if they believe the opossum is already dead.

Leave the area and give the opossum a chance to recover and move on. The opossum will not respond to prodding or poking. 

A dead or dying opossum on the road may be carrying up to 13 uninjured babies in its pouch.  You can check the body of hit-by-car opossums for living infants.

1.If there are infants, immediately take the mother and any infants that have fallen from the pouch to Native Animal Rescue.

2. Except for the above instance, do not handle, feed, or transport mature opossums.

3. Contact Native Animal Rescue at 831-462-0726.

4. If you are unable to contact Native Animal Rescue, call Wildlife Emergency Services at 831-429-2323.

Are you having problems with opossums on your property? We have lots of ideas for dealing with opossums in your yard, under your home, or elsewhere on your property. Click here to get started.


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Native Animal Rescue        1855 17th Ave., Santa Cruz, CA 95062