facts and emergency care advice
Treating for stress and shock
Shock is often the number one cause of death in injured wild animals. You need to immediately minimise that animal’s shock and stress. Shock is essentially the loss of heat and fluids from the body, which is a natural response to injury. Interaction with humans causes additional stress to an injured animal and this can kill an already shocked animal. So keep in mind that fear, noise, and cold temperatures all contribute to the animal’s stress. It is essential to get the animal to an experienced carer as soon as possible to minimise stress and to reduce the risk of the animal going into shock. While the animal is in your care, you can reduce this stress by providing:
- warmth – heat pad, hot water bottle
When transporting the animal please keep the car radio off. Keep the animal in an area of your house that is quiet, draft-free and away from family noises and smells (especially pets and young children). Stabilise the animal by putting in a warm dark box (heat pad/hot water bottle) or secure cage with cover over it (i.e. towel), in a quiet room. Wrap the possum in a blanket or towel and provide an artificial heat source. Monitor the heat regularly to make sure the animal is not overheated (feeling the ears can provide a good indication of temperature). Provide food and water if you are not able to deliver the possum to a Fauna Rescue member straight away. Do not force feed. Initially offer fluids only. Preboiled water (cooled to warm) can be offered by syringe or from a teaspoon. Keep the possum covered in the towel/blanket and just uncover the mouth if you are going to offer water. Be cautious of juvenile and adult possums as they can inflict serious injuries with their teeth and claws. Leave food such as small amounts of chopped up fruit in with the possum but do not attempt to feed it yourself. Deliver to a Fauna Rescue carer as soon as possible.
Does the possum need to come into care?
Sometimes injuries are obvious for instance; broken bones or limb, or having been hit by a car. If a baby or adult possum is found out in the open during day light hours it means something is wrong with the animal and they will require capturing and assessment by an experienced carer. Baby possums found without their mother should come into care if they are to survive. Juvenile possums may venture short distances from their mothers so you will need to observe the possum to see if their mother is close by.
Possums and the law In South Australia, all possums are protected (ie safeguarded against collecting, hunting or other activities) under the provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1972.
It is advisable to wear leather or thick gloves when handling a possum. Most injured or orphaned possums are found on the ground. You can catch them by throwing a towel over them and scooping them up. Place one hand at neck and the other at base of tail (if no spinal injuries). If spinal injuries leave possum in the position it has chosen to be in and lift into carrier without changing its chosen position. Do not lift a possum from under its front legs like a baby. Always have their full bodyweight supported by one hand under their rear and another holding them upright but slightly curled around the chest cavity. Fauna Rescue own several possum traps which members and the public can use to trap injured possums if required. Fauna Rescue does not assist the public to remove possums sleeping in roof spaces. Please contact us if you require a referral to a possum friendly pest controller.
Adult Weight: 2,500 g to 4,500 g (2.5 kg – 4.5 kg)
Fur Colour: Upper body – Grey; Underside – Cream to caramel; Ears & cheeks – Cream to caramel; Tail – Black
Ears: Pointed like a cats
Behaviour: Aggressive & vocal if threatened
Adult Weight: 650 g to 1,000 g (0.6 kg – 1 kg)
Fur Colour: Upper body – Grey to black/brown; Underside – Cream to caramel; Ears & cheeks – Cream to caramel; Tail – top 2/3 – black/brown, bottom; Tail bottom 1/3 – usually white to caramel
Nose: Brown to black
Ears: Small and rounded
Behaviour: Less aggressive than Brushtail but caution still needed, will “statue” rather than attack
THE VERY BEST OPTION FOR A RESCUED POSSUM IS TO ORGANISE GETTING IT TO AN EXPERIENCED WILDLIFE CARER IMMEDIATELY.
*These are only very basic initial instructions. Please contact your nearest Wildlife Group and speak to an experienced carer for more information or to organise to place the possum into care.
Possum Boxes Available to order for $50
Our boxes are 300mm square x approx 400mm high, they are made from 12mm and 15mm exterior grade plywood and come with a painted finish.
Instructions on fixing and placing the box into the right position is included