Ringtail possums & wildlife care, Geelong VetJune 13, 2017
It’s a cold chilly morning and you’re packing the kids up in the car for school drop off or maybe you are out taking the pooch out for a walk when you suddenly see something move in the corner of your eye huddled at the base of a tree. It’s small, brown in colour with a long tail with a white tip! Is it a rat? Or a mouse?? No it is probably a baby (joey) ringtail possum!
During the months of July through to January we have a fair few lost or orphaned baby ringtail possum’s brought into our clinics from all over the Bellarine Peninsula. Their breeding season starts in April and by July they are starting to emerge from their mothers pouch. Unfortunately this puts these little ones in a vulnerable position. First of all is from predators! And the biggest predator is our common house hold cat! Yes we do love our feline friends but it is a natural instinct for cats to hunt and they often prey on ringtail possums. They generally chase the mum, who runs and scatters away. The joey does her best to hold on to her mum’s back but they can often fall off and get left behind and end up at the base of your tree! So keeping your cat inside at night will be a huge assistance in preventing this type of tragedy.
The second main reason you may see these little guys in need of help is in fact due to ringtail possums themselves! When a mother has young she will not mate until her joey is independent and left the nest. So if a new male moves into town and finds a female he wants to mate with he will literally kick out a joey from the nest so that the female will mate with him. So again this little baby may end up at the base of your tree!
So what do you do?? It is actually pretty simple! First of all don’t panic! A baby possum won’t bite you! But she will be cold and possibly injured. Do not try to place the baby possum back in the tree. Unless of course you can see the mum close by. But even then she will be too afraid to come near the joey if she has received a fright or if you are standing there. The best thing for the joey is to get her to the closest vet or wildlife shelter.
Now as the baby will be cold you really need to get her warm. So the best thing to use is a sock! Pick the baby up carefully and place her into the sock. Then if you are happy to, put the baby down the front of your top to keep her warm! Otherwise a warm hot water bottle can be used or something similar. Once the joey is warm and secure then she is safe to travel either to one of our clinics or to a local wildlife shelter. If you are unable to travel then you can call Wildlife Victoria on 1300094535 who will organise one of their rescue volunteers to pick up the joey.