In a used vehicle lot in late October, a guy found a little pink animal wandering about by itself. He loaded the small animal into his car and brought her to the South Plains Wildlife Rehabilitation Center since he knew she wouldn’t be able to live on her own through the impending winter (SPWRC).
The individual left a box at the intake facility of the SPWRC, which was being run by Gail Barnes, the executive director of the organization. Although it didn’t first appear that way, she had gotten a call from him stating that he would be dropping off a wild possum. Barnes told The Dodo, “As I was carrying the box back, this arm pops out, and it’s hairless. “Oh my my, this is not the possum, I exclaim.
This must be a hairless cat.’”
Barnes opened the box safely inside and discovered that she was actually holding a wild possum, who had no fur on her face or feet.
Barnes recalled thinking, “Oh my god, she’s so chilly.” We had to warm her up since she was hypothermic. We placed her in the incubator and then heated up some socks to get her temperature back up to normal.
Next, Barnes and the volunteers set about helping the possum gain weight. They had no idea how long she had been without her mom, so they gave her a variety of food to snack on, and the possum happily ate it up. “If the mother knows that something is wrong with the baby they’re going to drop them off or discard them,” Barnes said. “So she probably was scared to death.”
During her vet checkup, the vets determined that the little possum’s unique appearance was due to alopecia, an auto-immune disease causing hair loss. And without fur to protect her from the elements, the possum was unable to be released into the wild.
The center put out a call for little sweaters and pouches to keep the possum warm during the winter months, and the community happily responded. So far the little possum has received knit pouches to snuggle in and hand-me-down clothes from hairless cat owners.
The possum has gained twice as much weight in the weeks since she first arrived at the wildlife facility, and she will soon be prepared to meet her roommate Remy.
The two little possums will reside in a spacious indoor/outdoor cage with comfy burrows for sleeping. The wildlife center dreams of the day when they can contribute to the public’s understanding of the significance of marsupials in North America.
“Possums are one of the most misunderstood animals,” Barnes said. “People trap them, they don’t want them in their yard, they think they look prehistoric because they have more teeth than any other mammal. But they’re really very beneficial. They’re scavengers — they eat all your insects, your bugs and your snakes.”
The little possum is growing more comfortable with her caretakers every day, and is proving that against all odds she is determined to thrive.