baby opossum

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You have to admit this baby opossum is a cute little booger.

Editor’s note: Doc Robin is on vacation in California and probably under the influence of … well, something. So please enjoy this column she wrote way back when she was young. Younger — I meant younger.

The honey-do lists around my house might be slightly different than most households. As a matter of fact, one glimpse at some of my recent requests and your family may be eternally grateful for the mundane chores that need to be tended to in your home. My husband (whom I have mentioned before, has the patience of a saint) and daughter (poor thing, grew up this way, has no idea this is not normal) are often conscripted to help.

1. Pick up milk on the way home from work.

2. Do a load of laundry — darks or permanent press, your choice.

3. Do another load of laundry — raccoon cage towels, no choice.

4. Help me find the baby opossum that got loose in the house last night.

I’d like to say having a home-care animal escape from its cage (or my grasp) is an unusual thing, but I wouldn’t want to lie. When we had our kitchen remodeled, I gave explicit instructions to the demolition crew to let me know if they found any tiny rodent skeletons under the cabinets when they pulled them out.

Over the years I have had more than one baby mouse or rat jump out of my hands while I was trying to feed or clean it. There is a stage of development in the life of a baby rodent when they are called “hoppers.” There is a very good reason for this. Any perception of threat is met with a reflexive leap that can result in the baby escaping from a gently cupped hand and landing with a thump, followed by a scamper, and ultimately a dive under the nearest cabinet, dresser or appliance.

I am happy to report there were no tiny bodies found in my closet (or anywhere else) during the kitchen remodel. Apparently all of my escapees were able to get out of the house and live a long and happy life in the wild. Or got eaten by a hawk. Best not to know. I did get a few strange looks from the construction crew when I told them it was necessary to plug every gap wider than a quarter-inch.

So, exactly why is my house crawling with rats, raccoons, rabbits and opossums? It’s not that I need the number to a good exterminator. I actually already have that. He is one of the people who bring these animals to us at Peace River Wildlife Center.

Craig Greene, owner of Done Rite Trapping in Port Charlotte, is one of the good guys. He gets calls from frantic people who don’t know what to do with a wild animal in their attic or close to their home. Craig takes the time to educate people and do the right thing for the animals. Many trappers live up to the name “exterminator,” but Craig does everything he can to help not only the people involved, but the animals too. He even comes in to clean up other trappers’ messes when they have removed a mother but left the babies behind.

No, the reason I have as many critters around the house as Ellie May Clampett is that the orphaned and misplaced baby mammals that are admitted to PRWC need to be fed every few hours, 24 hours a day. So the rehabbers and a select few volunteers take them home until the babies are weaned and able to go overnight without being bottle-fed. Then the older juveniles are transferred back to PRWC to await release.

Home care takes a serious commitment, but is one of the most rewarding aspects of wildlife rehabilitation. Classes are forming now for anyone who thinks they may have the time and aptitude for baby mammal home care. Call Callie in the PRWC office for details and to schedule, and you too can have the pitter-patter of tiny paws scampering through your home. Or you could keep them in their cages, where they belong.

The most recently missing opossum in my house was found the next morning by my daughter and was placed back in the cage with her foster siblings. She (the opossum, not my daughter) was found clinging to the top of a cloak in the guest bedroom closet where we store my husband’s dresses. But that is the subject of an entirely different column.

Peace River Wildlife Center is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to the care, preservation and protection of Charlotte County’s native wildlife since 1978. They are open seven days a week year-round, including holidays. Tours are offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. PRWC receives no government funding and relies entirely on private donations. For more info, visit PRWildlife.org, email PeaceRiverWildlife@yahoo.com or call 941-637-3830.

Peace River Wildlife Center is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to the care, preservation and protection of Charlotte County’s native wildlife since 1978. They are open seven days a week year-round, including holidays. Tours are offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. PRWC receives no government funding and relies entirely on private donations. For more info, visit PRWildlife.org, email PeaceRiverWildlife@yahoo.com or call 941-637-3830.

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