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Am I really orphaned? Opossum

As with any wildlife, an opossum should be rescued if it:

  • Has been found by a cat, dog, or other predator;

  • Has any injury;

  • Has bugs or fly eggs on it (these look like sawdust);

  • Allows someone to pick it up or is lying on its side;

  • Is very thin or weak.


Opossum mothers carry their babies in their pouches. Once the babies grow too large to fit in the pouch, they ride on their mother’s backs or tails.  If a baby falls off when the mother is running, it will likely become lost, as she will not go back to retrieve it.  Any opossum that is less than 8 inches long from nose to rump, not including the tail, needs to come into care.  

If you find a dying or dead adult opossum, please check to see if there are babies in the pouch.  If possible, remove the babies, and contact a rehabber immediately.  If you cannot remove the babies, keep the mother warm and get her to a rehabber quickly.  The babies will continue nursing on a dead mother and will become ill from drinking spoiled milk, so they need care ASAP.

To remove babies still attached to the mother’s nipples:

  • Use a toothpick, Q-tip, other small tool, or even your fingernail to gently pry the baby’s mouth open enough to break the strong suction it has on the nipple. 

  • Pull the baby steadily but firmly to detach.  A twisting motion may help.  

  • Put the babies in a small container and provide supplemental heat, as they become chilled very quickly.


An opossum over 8 inches long from nose to rump and is uninjured and able to move well can survive on its own and should be left alone, providing it is in a safe area.  

If you are in doubt, reach out to one of New Leaf’s opossum contacts.  Try to take a photo or video so we can help you determine whether the opossum needs intervention.

What do I do next?

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