Opossum

Opossum Rescue

The Wildlife Center of Texas received a call from a concerned citizen about a young opossum who had fallen from a tree and was impaled on branches.  The Houston SPCA rescue driver arrived on the scene and gently cut the branches away and immediately brought the injured opossum to the Wildlife Center of Texas.  The opossum had fly eggs on the wound (these are the yellow specs in the picture, and they were removed to prevent maggots from occurring).        Veterinarian and vet technicians rushed the opossum into surgery and the stick was removed.  Luck was with the little one because no major organs were affected.  A shunt was put in and the opossum is on antibiotics and pain medications.          A HUGE thank you goes to our affiliate the Houston SPCA who provided the rescue driver and veterinarian for saving this little one’s life.

Spring Has Sprung

The Wildlife Center has shifted to its Spring/Summer operating hours and is now open Monday through Friday 9:00-6:00 and weekends 9:00-4:00pm.  Sunday was  the first full day of spring and it is quite appropriate that a baby Great Horned owl became the 1000th intake of the year.  Raptor babies, especially Great Horned Owls are usually one of the first babies to make their appearance each year. This year we were several weeks into baby squirrels before the Great Horned owlets began showing up at intake. This month has kept the Center staff, veterinarians, and  volunteers very busy treating and feeding hundreds of squirrels and opossums.  The squirrels seemed to fall out of nests when strong winds blew through in March. The Center is also caring for over a hundred  little baby opossums who were kept alive by the protection of a mother's pouch, when moms were run over by vehicles.  While we are sad the moms did not make it, their heritage is carried on by these resilient little ones.  Caring volunteers not only provide these orphans food and shelter, but do so in a manner that keeps them wild so they have the best chance at survival when they are returned to the wild. Baby doves are beginning to show up at the Wildlife Center. They will soon be followed by songbirds and Killdeer. Hopefully, the squirrel and opossum babies will have eased off before the birds hit their peak. A young female bobcat was brought to the Wildlife Center who was hit by a car. She has a severe head injury.  Wildlife Center veterinarians checked the bobcat out and she was found to have an eye injury as well as several check bone fractures.  She is on medications and is [...]

Embrace the Opossum

Opossum may be aesthetically challenged, but they are probably the single most important wild animal to your backyard ecology. They have remained unchanged since the time of the dinosaur. Why? Because the physiologic model is perfect for its ecologic niche and it doesn’t need to evolve to something better. So what niche does it fill? Sanitation engineer. We’ll never know if the opossum is grateful we are so messy or if they scurry around feeling harassed and under-appreciated. Either way, there is no doubt the lowly opossum should be welcomed with open arms. Why? O let me list the ways. Let’s start out with all the things they eat that we don’t want to share our back yard with. The Opossum are an omnivore leaning towards carnivore and will eat almost anything. They are the only mammal that routinely dines on snakes, including poisonous snakes. Because of their slower metabolism, they are not as susceptible to the venom. They also eat beetles, ants, grasshoppers, grubs, earthworms, lizards, geckos, frogs and fresh carrion. They do not dig up the yard or eat your newly planted flowers, but they will eat the pests that will destroy your grass, kill your bushes and eat your flowers. The animal responsible for turning over trash cans, dragging them half-way across the yard and prying open the lid is the raccoon, not the innocent opossum you see munching away in it the next morning.  I’m not suggesting opossums are blameless for they are not above crawling into trash cans (from which they can’t escape) and accidentally turning them over. Don’t be alarmed if you find a opossum in your trashcan, simply tip the can on its side and leave for 10 – [...]

A Bump in the Night

Would you know what to do if you heard scratching from the wall or  thumps in the ceiling? Your quick reaction could mean the difference between the life or death of an animal(s) and whether there is damage to property from the animal’s activities or from its decomposition. If you didn’t hear animal activity until March – April – May, I can guarantee there are babies in the attic. Even if you don’t hear babies – they are there. The worst thing that can be done is to trap and haul off the mother. The first step in dealing with an animal incursion is to determine the species of animal. Many techniques are common across the board, but a faster solution can be reached if you know what you are dealing with. Rats and mice sound like a scratching that moves along the perimeter of the room or up and down walls.  Inspection of the attic will reveal droppings against a vertical surface. Rats and mice show an extremely strong preference to move along  walls.  Mice will leave dropping that are half the length of an uncooked grain of rice, rats will leave a dropping that is as large as a cooked grain of rice or larger. It is important to know what size rodent you are dealing with. Many believe that rat poison is a “no muss, no fuss” solution. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a gruesome death as the animal bleeds out internally. The mythology is that rats eat the bait, then leave in search of water. The problem is that they often don’t leave and if they die in an enclosed space, the stench and subsequent clean up [...]

Aren’t White Animals Albino?

The short answer is no. There are three major categories of white animals. The first is genetically white - white tigers receive a recessive white allele from each parent. If two white tigers mate, then all the offspring will be white. A heterozygous normal phenotype mated with a white phenotype would yield half normal and half white. Genetically white animals are usually a true white; dark stripes, rings or masks usually appear the same color (sometimes diluted) as found in the normal phenotype. The eyes are the normal color.   Albinism occurs when melanin is not produced by melanocytes. Melanin is the pigment that colors our skin. Sunlight stimulates its production. The melanin provides protection from UV damage. This protection extends to the eyes. Without melanin to protect them, eyes suffer from many issues including photosensitivity.   Albinism is easily identified by the striking red eyes. Eyes appear red or pink because without melanin in the iris, the capillaries inside the eye show through. Even animals that have genetically blue eyes will have a pink cast because the melanin helps provide opacity. The coat color will be a creamy white to pale yellow – the color isn’t a true white. Dark markings will be expressed as gray or pale tan. Most animals express as completely albino, but there are cases when only certain parts of the body are affected.   Many believe that albinism is a freak occurrence. However, albinism is actually genetic. It is a recessive trait that can be inherited. Most types strike males and females equally, but there is one type that is X-linked. The melanocytes are normal, but the body either doesn’t produce a necessary enzyme or produces a defective enzyme. [...]

A Fall Day at the Wildlife Center

Three animals lay on cold Houston streets on a drizzly gray day in November.  All three needed help as their injuries prevented them from moving.  Luckily all three were found by caring individuals who brought them to an organization that was ready, willing and able to provide treatment. On November 21, 2009 the first call came in about a Great Horned Owl who had been found on the road.  A man and his two children brought the badly hypothermic owl to the WR&E Wildlife Center for care.  The magnificent Great Horned Owl was cold, wet and scared. WR&E staff gavage fed warm fluids and pain medication. Intubation continued on an hourly basis. The Great Horned Owl began to stabilize.  Several hours later a call came from a gentleman who had found a hawk on the road.  With guidance from the Wildlife Center he took a towel and scooped the hawk up and gently laid him in the back of his car and drove it to the Wildlife Center.  The hawk turned out to be a gorgeous adult Red Tailed Hawk. It was also badly hypothermic, so WR&E staff administered warm fluids and pain medication. A heat lamp was placed over the bird to speed the warming process. Intubation continued on an hourly basis. Not more than thirty minutes later the third cold wet patient was driven to the Wildlife Center.  An adult female Virginia opossum was found injured.  An exam revealed deep gashes in her neck. She was also hypothermic and in shock.  This animal was warmed and stabilized. Then her wounds were treated.      By the end of the day all three animals were dry, warm and taking food.  Should they survive, they will still have several weeks of [...]

Awesome Opossum

By Cyndi Bohannon Anyone who has moved a wheelbarrow and found a hissing and spitting opossum underneath understands the jolt of adrenaline such an encounter produces. When faced with such an aggressive display, it is hard to remember that the opossum is more frightened that you. Think that opossums are disgustingly ugly? Tempted to chase them out of your flowerbeds? Don’t – they are voracious insect and grub eaters. OK - so it’s ugly. But don’t let its lack of good looks fool you, it is the single most important animal you can have in your yard. Nicknamed the living fossil by scientists, the opossum dates back to the days of the dinosaur. The name "opossum" is derived from an Algonquian Indian word "apasum", meaning white animal. The opossum’s face is usually white while the body coloration can range from almost white, through various shades of gray to black. Most of the guard hair is agouti (banded) which means that the hair starts growing one color then change color one or more times before it sheds. The only marsupial (mammal with a pouch) living in North America, the opossum is a unique and fascinating animal. The scientific name, Didelphis virginiana means “double womb” which refers to the pouch as the secondary place of fetal development. Virginiana refers to the state of Virginia where the opossum was first observed by early English colonists. Opossums are born after a gestation period of only thirteen days. Blind, embryonic in appearance, and about the size of a bee, the newborn opossum crawls unaided to its mother's pouch, where it attaches to a nipple. The nipple completely fills the tiny opossum's mouth, firmly attaching it to its mother. The opossum [...]

By |August 20th, 2009|Categories: Opossum, Species Article|Tags: , , |2 Comments