UPDATE 03-12-10: This little opossum is a juvenile male. This occurred on the 9th, and today he is still hanging in there, but not yet out of the woods. They believe he has a fractured lower jaw, which I wondered about initially when I drove up and he was running in circles and doing weird licking things with his mouth and shaking his head. (I had a feeling they were going to tell me he had a fractured jaw.) I'll check in on him again next week, and see how he's doing. Here's to patient #662 of the Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife!
I started out this morning like any other, and little did I know that when I left for work I would be delayed and side-tracked for about two hours.
I was taking the little side-street I take every morning (the one that runs next to Hope Hospice), just a couple of miles from my house, when I spotted something in the other lane up ahead. At first I thought it was an armadillo crossing the road, as there are tons of them out in this area, and they are commonly out in the daylight. But upon closer inspection, I realized it was this...
An opossum. I saw it walking in circles and shaking it's head. Around and around and around. I wasn't sure whether it was hit by a car or if it may have distemper (you'll commonly see things like circling, lethargy and seizures in animals infected with distemper). I circled back and ran out to check on it. I could see a couple of spots of blood around it's nose and around it's back end, but no other obvious injury. However I suspected a head injury, as it had some obvious neurological impairment. But I still wondered whether it could be distemper causing it to circle around.
I started making phone calls, trying to figure out what to do. See normally I keep supplies in my Jeep to handle situations like this: heavy gloves, towels, cages, leashes. But these things were removed last year to make room for camping supplies, and never put back again. So here I was, all alone with an injured opossum, with no supplies and no one to help. I called CROW (Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) right away, and they told me of the clinics nearby for drop-off. (I keep them programmed in my phone for times like this.)
I couldn't reach Woodrow for to ask him to bring me my supplies, and I wasn't sure who else to call to help. I was afraid to leave the opossum alone, for fear that it would either walk off and I wouldn't know where it went, or it would get hit by another car. There were already vultures nearby, patiently waiting for the opossum to die. I love vultures, but I was going to do what I could to rob them of this meal!
I initially tried putting my sweatshirt over it to see whether I might be able to pick it up with my bare hands. But it stopped circling and looked up at the sweatshirt and sort of hissed in a half-hearted way. If you are unfamiliar with opossum and why I might be apprehensive, here is a picture of one that my mother encountered in the crate she setup for a stray cat.
They can be quite aggressive when cornered and have lots of sharp teeth. They are pretty fierce little creatures when they need to be!
While all of this was going on, the opossum quit circling and set it's head down on the ground and seemed to be going into shock, but I still wasn't sure whether it had been hit or had distemper. Then I spotted this about 5 feet away...
So that seemed to confirm that it had been struck by a car. However that didn't rule out distemper. I simply am not positive whether or not opossum get distemper.
A couple of nurses from Hope Hospice stopped to see how the little gal was doing. The second one to stop was on her way to see a patient, but she pulled over and got out and looked at the opossum. By this time, I had called my co-worker and asked him if he could come sit with the opossum while I ran home to get supplies to transport it. So I was waiting on him. The nurse said that she was on her way to see a patient, but she would be happy to stay with the opossum for me until my co-worker arrived. I was about to take her up on this when I saw my co-worker approaching. So I thanked her for her kindness, instructed my co-worker to just stay with the opossum and flag people around her, and I would be back as soon as possible. At this point, the opossum was very still and you could only tell she was alive by seeing her chest rise and fall with each breath.
I rushed home, ran frantically around looking for a box, grabbed an old towel and my work gloves, and headed back.
After I got back to the spot, my co-worker gave me a piece of paper on which the nurse had written her name and number, and asked that I let her know what happened with the opossum.
I tilted the box on its side in front of the opossum, and she stood up when I did. I put the towel behind her and began to drape it over her, and she looked around at me and took a step away from me towards the box. Perfect! I continued to prod her forward with the towel and my hand on her butt, and she actually walked into the box in an attempt to get away from me. We then gently tilted the box upright, and I wrapped the towel around her in the box and closed the flaps up. I thanked my co-worker, put her in the front seat, and called CROW to get the address to the clinic for my GPS. I got her to the clinic, filled out the paperwork, and headed on into work. On the way, I stopped by Englund's and got a sub...
The whole ordeal took me about two hours, and I hate to think that the opossum suffered for that long. Every minute counts in a situation like that.
Tomorrow I will call CROW to check up on her and see whether she made it through the night or not. I'll update the blog when I know more on her condition. You never know what will cross your path when you start out your morning.
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