Helping a Baby Possum

It is a common occurrence for joeys to be brought into the veterinary clinic.  When a baby possum is found alone, most of the time it is because they lost their grip from their mother. Always look around to try to find the baby’s mother. Possums are very territorial and if she is still alive she will most likely remain in the area searching for her baby. Before going near the joey, ensure that the mother is not in sight. If you see the mother, it is best to leave the baby possum where you found it. If you find a dead female possum, check the pouch to ensure there are no joeys inside. If there is a joey attached to the teat, do not pull the joey off as it may damage the joey’s palate, which will eventually kill the joey. It is best to bring the deceased mother, with the joey still inside the pouch, into the veterinary clinic.           

Identifying the Type of Possum:

Ringtail Possum (above photo)

Long, thin tail with a white tip
Small, rounded ears
Brown to black fur
Pale fur on belly

Brushtail Possum (below photo)

Long, furry black tail with a hairless strip

Large, pointed cat like ears
Thick grey to brown fur

What to do:

Remember where the joey was found
It is best to use gloves to pick up the possum
Place the baby possum in a dark pouch such as a sock
Place the joey inside a small box or carrier with towels to keep the joey secure
Do not hold the joey unless necessary
Use either body temperature or a hot water bottle to keep the possum warm
During transport, ensure the possum is safe
Transport to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible

What happens next?

Once the possum is brought to the veterinary clinic, the veterinarian will assess the joey, checking for injuries. If injuries are present, the veterinarian may choose to either treat the possum in clinic or transfer the patient to the RSPCA Wildlife Hospital for treatment. If the joey shows no signs of injury, a Wildlife Carer will be called to collect the possum. It is best for the Ringtail joey to be with a Wildlife Carer as they do much better in pairs or small groups. Ringtail joeys are more delicate than Brushtail joeys and require more dedication to care for. It is still best to have the Brushtail joeys in a Wildlife Carers care, as they are more familiar with the requirements the joey needs. Once the joey is at an appropriate age, they will then be released back into the wild. 

Written by Natasha Jones, Veterinary Nurse

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