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The Possum Midwife

Wildlife rehabilitator Kim Wright transferring the Possums from my car to her truck (photo Josephine Bennett)

From here on out I want to be known as the "Possum Midwife." Here are the details.....

So as my husband and I were headed to work this morning he mentioned that he had a "circle of life" story for me. He went on to say that while he was walking the dogs he came across a dead Possum. That's not such an unusual thing in Georgia but this is not an ordinary dead Possum story. This deceased Marsupial had living babies. My husband told me he could tell because her belly (pouch) was moving.

It's moments like this I am reminded that my husband is from Georgia and I am a Yankee. His "circle of life" is my "please help these babies survive." I have a very soft heart for animals and regularly remove spiders from my home humanely and can't drive by a stray animal.

Immediately I called my friend Cherie Bland who knows everyone in rescue and volunteers much of her time with Macon Bibb Animal Welfare. I also called the shelter and sought their advice and it was decided that I should contact a state certified wildlife rehabilitator. These are people certified by the state to take injured and orphaned wildlife and care for them. But time was of the essence and I came to the conclusion that the Possum's first rescuer was going to be me.

 

Two of the seven possums crawling out from under the towels I placed them on in a box for transport (photo Josephine Bennett)

I pulled up in front of my house and quickly ran inside to get a box, towels, and most importantly.......gloves. As I said when my kids were young, "I can do anything with a pair of gloves on." However this time I was not so sure. This was going to put me to the test. I get grossed out pretty easily

I started down the alley with my box and the first thing I saw was one of the many feral cats we have in the neighborhood. I hoped I was not too late. But a few steps down the road I saw the mother Possum. She was clearly dead and three of the babies had already left her pouch and were squirming on the side of the road. I picked them up first and placed them in the box. Then I noticed a tail sticking out from inside the mother's midsection. I had to go in.

I took my gloved hand and pulled out the first possum. But once inside I knew there were more and they were still firmly attached. Three more times I reached inside the pouch of the dead Possum and pulled out a small, hissing, baby slightly smaller than a Baby Ruth Bar. When I pulled out the last baby I made sure there were no more. I was pretty proud of myself.

One of the Possums about to be transported (photo Josephine Bennett)

Once in the car I called Wildlife Rehabilitator Kim Wright and let her know I was on my way. We arranged to meet at an exit right off I-75 in Byron where I would hand over the Possums over to the real hero. As Kim pulled back the towel she expertly picked up the seven Possums one-by-one in her hand in order to warm them. She actually got in her truck, still holding the Possums and headed home where the real work was about to begin.

I got back in my car and headed to work realizing that the next time someone called me a Yankee I was going to inform them that my Possum birthing actually made me more of a Southerner than most people.

Fun Facts About Possums:

  • American Possums are actually Opossums, scientific name Didelphimorphia
  • Possums can have as many as 25 babies at once
  • Possums can grip with their tail and hang but they do not sleep like this
  • Possums eat almost anything
  • Possums have a strong immune system and are partially immune to snake venom and rarely get rabies
  • Possums will play dead when they feel threatened (not my Possum unfortunately)
  • Possums used to be widely hunted and consumed
  • When distressed baby Possums will make a sneezing noise to signal their mother (they were)
  • Possums eat around 5,000 ticks every season
  • Possums have a bifurcated Vagina and divided Uterus and Marsupiam (pouch)

 

Josephine Bennett has been with GPB since 2006 and currently serves as the GPB Macon Station Manager and Senior Producer. Before that she hosted Morning Edition and served as Macon Bureau Chief and later Community Engagement Manager.

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