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Care for Baby Opossums
 
Opossums
Opossums
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North America's only marsupials

Any opossum baby found wandering without its mother should be taken into rehabilitation. Opossum mothers will not retrieve lost youngsters.

Until you are able to contact and place the orphan with a permitted Wildlife Rehabilitator, you can follow these CARE INSTRUCTIONS to give the infant the best chance for survival.

WARMTH: You must provide a secondary heat source until age 10-11 weeks when they can thermo-regulate on their own. A heating pad under their box on a low setting and an old towel inside the box for them to snuggle down in is optimal.

REHYDRATION: If it has not had any fluids for several hours, you should rehydrate slowly with fluids after the infant's body temperature is back up to normal, and before you give formula. NEVER give anything by mouth to an animal whose body temperature has dropped below normal until you have warmed it (SLOWLY) for several hours. A good rehydrating solution can be made by mixing the following: 1 pint of boiled (or distilled) water - 1 teaspoon of sugar - 1/3 teaspoon of salt

WHAT TO FEED:

Opossum CareINFANT FORMULA: Powdered ESBILAC - Mix 1 Part Powder to 2 Parts Water (Available at Pets-Mart, Pet Land, Pet-Co, Tractor Supply, UPCO Pet Supplies (Online @ www.upco.com). Some local Veterinary offices may have a supply on hand.

For babies 9-11 weeks and older, mix/blend several of the following ingredients together to make a gruel or mush. Mix up enough for a couple of days at a time. Each time you mix up a batch, use some of the different ingredient options above to give them variety as well as a complete diet. A calcium/phosphate supplement powder should be sprinkled into food to prevent calcium deficiencies common to opossum babies in rehab.                     
STAPLE - 90% of diet - Puppy chow, kitten chow, baby food chicken or small pieces of chicken, turkey, or other meat. Remember they are carnivores.
5% of diet - Fruits - chopped grapes, apples, melon, banana, berries, etc.
5% of diet - Vegetables - chopped broccoli, squash, sweet potato, cottage cheese,
OTHER - Scrambled egg (with the shell), sardines, non-fat yogurt,
Natural-WILD foods - (Use as many as possible) Insects & bugs, worms, crickets, mealworms, grasshoppers, small rodents. They must be introduced to the LIVE prey
at some point before they are released.

AGE - APPEARANCE - FEEDING SCHEDULE – HOW TO FEED

How Old is the Opossum? Appearance & Behaviors
   
Birth to 1 week At birth opossum babies are about the size of a bumblebee.
They are almost embryonic with pink skin, no fur and with their eyes and mouth closed. Their hind legs are not developed but they have a special claw on their front legs for climbing into the pouch. They will need an incubator with 70% humidity for housing at this age. It is VERY difficult to get a feeding tool into their mouth slit. They will require tube feeding at this stage every 2 hours, may go to 4 hour intervals at night.
   
2 Weeks Still furless pinkies with their eyes and mouth closed. Continue tube feeding schedule above.
   
3 Weeks The babies make a sneezing sound when they are hungry or looking for mom. Continue tube feeding schedule above.
   
4 Weeks Their weight is about 25 grams. They are beginning to show the first signs of skin pigmentation and fur growth. They will cry aloud when upset. Try feeding with a 1cc syringe. Possums usually do not suckle well, but may lap from the end of the syringe. You may eliminate another night feeding. Formula feed every 2 hours during the day.
   
5 Weeks Whiskers begin to grow around the mouth. Formula feed every 2 1/2 hours.
   
6-7 Weeks The fur begins to grow on the neck and back. Formula feed every 3 hours
   
8-9 Weeks The weight may be about 30 grams; Their eyes and mouth are beginning to open; They begin to crawl around the cage. Formula feed every 3 hours. Offer shallow lids of formula every 3-4 hours. "Top off" any babies who are not eating enough on their own by feeding with the 1cc syringe. Make sure they are gaining weight.
   
10-11 Weeks They should be urinating and defecating on their own now. Offer warm formula/gruel mixture in a shallow dish. Also have a shallow dish for water. If they may poop in the water dish, give them 2 water dishes! They can “Play Possum” now!
   
12 Weeks The babies have teeth now and can chew small bits of solid food. Begin introducing staple diet foods. They will need a large cage with branches to climb on, tunnels, and pine straw or leaf litter as a cage bottom. Offer gruel and a wide variety of solids. Worms and crickets are fun at this age. The opossums will make a "clicking" sound to communicate.
   
13-14 Weeks They have their full set of 50 teeth now and should be completely weaned. The can now thermo-regulate efficiently. They will communicate with growling sounds.
   

15 Weeks

RELEASE CRITERIA: Release at 12-14 inches in size (excluding the tail) when they are eating well and sufficiently afraid of all humans. It is OK if they are not afraid of the PRIMARY care giver.

 

Texas State Wildlife Rehabilitator Permit #REH-0704-836 • Member IWRC
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