Roadside rescue: Opossum baby found alone

December 7, 2023

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is part of and located at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. The hospital is open every single day, including holidays. Please call 239-262-2273 for wildlife assistance. The staff is available from 8am to 7pm.

An opossum and four nestling raccoons were among the fifty-one animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include an American coot, a common tern, an osprey, a Brazilian free-tailed bat and a Florida softshell turtle.

Opossum Joey Found Alone

The opossum joey was found on Airport Road near Naples Boulevard trying to climb up into the median. There were no other joeys or an adult opossum around. The 50 gram joey, approximately the size of a mini candy cane, had dirt in his mouth, was vocal, responsive to handling, dehydrated and cool to the touch. Hospital staff placed the young opossum in a snuggly fleece pouch in an animal intensive care unit to warm up.

Once the opossum was at a normal body temperature, staff cleared the dirt from the joey’s mouth, administered subcutaneous electrolytes, an antibiotic and monitored the joey throughout the evening.

An opossum joey investigates his enclosure.

The following morning, the opossum joey was fed a dilute milk replacer specifically formulated for opossums. Due to the opossum’s young age, he requires five formula feedings spaced throughout the day and night. Staff slowly increased the concentration of formula over two days to avoid any digestion issues.

By the third day, the opossum was receiving full strength milk replacement formula. The opossum slowly gained strength and by the fifth day at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, he was very active and offered a small amount of opossum formula in a bowl to encourage the joey to self-feed. The joey will receive care until he is old enough to fend for himself.

Opossums are the only marsupial native to North America and typically a young joey of that age would have been in his mother’s pouch with his siblings.

How the joey was separated from his mother is unknown. Thankfully, the motorist stopped and rescued the joey when he saw him struggling to climb the curb. When an animal is in imminent danger (drowning, in a road, a cat is ready to attack), people on scene need to take action to help the animal to avoid further injury or death. Once rescued, don’t delay, the sooner an animal receives professional medical attention, the less pain and suffering the animal will endure.

Baby Raccoons Roaming Without Mother

Four nestling raccoons were rescued after they were seen roaming a neighborhood without their mother over the course of two days. Residents reported the mother had been coming and going from a boat and the owner was intolerant of that situation, they weren’t sure but believed he had the mother raccoon trapped or killed. 

The woman who rescued the orphans was incredibly kind and skilled – she had prior experience as an animal control officer. She and her husband used nets to catch three of the babies, the forth escaped up a tree. It took one more night of monitoring for the woman to see the baby come down from the tree – she was ready and easily caught the fourth baby.

The four raccoons were underweight yet active. Hospital staff settled the litter into a large recovery space so they had various options to hide and a climb. Staff offered the kits a milk replacer formulated for raccoons and a diet of protein, fish and fruit. The kits devoured their diet and formula.

Similar to the opossum joey, the raccoon kits will be at the wildlife hospital until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

The situation with the raccoons could have had a completely different outcome if the boat owner hadn’t taken such drastic measures to evict the mother raccoon from his boat. While trapping “nuisance” wildlife may be in the best interest of the property owner, it is not in the best interest of the animal.

There are techniques that people can utilize to resolve many “nuisance” wildlife situations while allowing animals and humans to coexist.

This mother raccoon had found a safe space in the boat to raise her babies. There were several simple options the boat owner could have tried to encourage the mother raccoon to relocate her babies to an alternate nest site; doing so would have kept the raccoon family unit intact. 

Please, if you feel you have a nuisance wildlife situation, call the wildlife hospital for information before taking action. The wildlife hospital is open every day. The hospital staff has extensive knowledge of native wildlife and can offer solutions to a myriad of issues. Please keep in mind wild animals face tremendous challenges trying to survive in a world altered by humans, animals aren’t targeting you and trying to make your life difficult, they are just trying to find food, shelter and space to live and raise their young. 

Recent Releases

Four red-shouldered hawks were released this past week. Several animals were ready to go, but the colder weather put releases on hold.

Opportunities to Help

Visit our website to learn about opportunities to get involved. Please consider volunteering, if you are unable to give of your time as a volunteer, become a member or donate. Donations are tax-deductible and make a tremendous impact on our ability to procure needed supplies. Your support will help the Conservancy continue to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future. 

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples, Florida 34102. Call 239-262-2273 or see