I wanted to share a few photos from my "Thanksgiving animal release" yesterday. Earlier this week we were given the opportunity to release an opossum, and of course I jumped at the chance. This juvenile female, born in the spring, was discovered in a posh part of town, beneath someone's air conditioner unit. She was malnourished and had abrasions around her mouth. The rehab center fattened her up and took care of her while the abrasions healed. It was a beautiful, sunny day and unseasonably warm (> 50° F) for late November in Minnesota - the perfect day for a release.
Back off, buster! I have fifty teeth and know how to use them!
The policy of the Wildlife Rehab Center at which I volunteer is to release all adult animals back to the exact location where they were found. Upon arrival at the WRC, however, I discovered that this would not be the case for this particular opossum. As hard to believe as this may seem, the people who found little Miss Opossum were *not* eager to have their furry friend back, and requested that we relocate her.
I drove the little opossum up to Bald Eagle Lake Park in White Bear Lake Township, Minnesota, in search of the perfect release location. I was looking for wooded or shrubby natural habitat on public land, near water but not too close to the highway, as thousands of opossums die every year from interactions with traffic. Even so, opossums are nomadic, so I knew that she would not remain long where I left her.
I drove around Bald Eagle Lake for a bit, finally choosing the best area I saw that was *not* in someone's front yard. I retrieved the kennel cab from the back of the car and set it on the ground nearby, opened the door, and waited for Mlle. Opossum to exit and begin her new life.
I waited a bit longer, but the little opossum was simply not interested in re-entering the real world, and a hot Thanksgiving dinner awaited me. I had been warned about this by the WRC staff. Opossums are nocturnal, and are simply not very energetic or even curious at 1:30 in the afternoon, their equivalent of our 3:00 a.m. This opossum wasn't as lethargic as some, but clearly had not the slightest inclination to venture out at this crazy hour. Realizing I might be stuck here all day if I were to wait for her to come out on her own, I picked up the back of the carrier, angled it, and unceremoniously dumped her out on the ground, growling and spitting.
OK, have it your way! I'm out of that stupid plastic box, now what do I do??
With the distinct air of a prospective tenant weighing the merits of a new apartment, Miss opossum spent several minutes surveying her new surroundings.
Opossum on the move!
Apparently finding the new digs to her liking, the little opossum made her move with a quick (for an opossum) dash into the undergrowth near the water. Taken a bit by surprise, I was barely able to catch her movement on camera.
One final look back. Is it my imagination, or do I detect just the tiniest hint of a "thank you" in her demeanor?
The operation having been brought to a successful conclusion, I loaded the carrier back into my car and returned to my parents' home for a delicious traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I hope little Miss Opossum also found a tasty Thanksgiving dinner, but as with most successful releases there is no way to know for certain.