There are 14 wide-eyed weirdos riding in the back of our SUV. Ron and I are heading to our property in Hocking Hills (Ohio), praying that they’ll like their new home and want to stay and start families.
The second thing I learned about baby opossums: They’re adorable.
The first and most important thing I learned about them: they eat ticks. [NOTE: This is critically important, because every time we hike on our land, I end up with a tick on me. It’s one thing to come home, peel out of my clothes, give the dog a bath, take a shower, and find one during that process. It’s entirely different when I wake up during the night and find one having a party on my stomach. Those are sleepless nights that create lots of additional cleaning and midnight showers.]
In May, I contacted the Ohio Wildlife Center— an organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured and orphaned wild animals. They were delighted to have another volunteer ready to re-home some of their former residents. So, we are on our way to deliver these 14 babies to the woods near a small stream on our land. Two cat carriers contain seven critters each.
An apparent rain shower means the roads are still wet. Steam floats, hovering just above our car whenever when round a curve and dip down, before rising up another hill.
Ron has decided to name each opossum after the Seven Dwarfs. (Or should it be Dwarves?) Sleepy, Grumpy, Bashful, Sneezy, Doc, Happy, and Dopey – I usually can’t remember all seven. That’s what Google is for! The second crate will be Sleepy 2, Grumpy 2, Bashful 2…you get the idea.
The first crate includes a real leader. He sniffs the air as we open the back of the car. He hangs upside down on the door of the crate as Ron carries it to find the perfect location for their release. We have two streams on the property, (we haven’t figured out yet if they’re connected; we definitely need a drone and a better map), but when we get to the area we remember as the “turn” we realize it is completely overgrown. (“You go first,” says Ron. Nope. No way. Such a funny man.)
We head back to the trails that we are paying to keep mowed, and find a spot near the ravine where the second stream is located. As we were instructed by our friends from the OWC, we set out some cat food to give the little guys something to eat as they start out in their new home (and to entice them out of the crate), but we needn’t have worried. “Doc” leads the way. We take a few photos and head back to the car for the second crate.
We open the car and are horrified. The opossums are in a pile in the back. Two of them look dead! Oh no! Did we leave them in the car too long? What are we going to do? And then one of them moves.
Right. They’re scared. THEY’RE PLAYING OPOSSUM. Wow. It’s as if I had forgotten what animals they are.
We place the second crate a few hundred yards away from the first to give all 14 “dwarfs” space to spread out. We open the door and wait. They do not have a leader. They stay put. Obviously, we need to get out of their way. We go back to check on the first batch. The crate is empty! We can’t see any of them!
We’ll go back in a few days to retrieve the crates. We cross our fingers they’ll be dining on ticks—and a little bit of cat food—in the meantime.