Some time ago we received a call from the Redlands Wildlife Care Network. A lady had rescued a baby brushtail that had somehow fallen out of mum’s pouch. Mum was still close by, up in a palm tree.
So armed with a long handled pole and a little basket made from fibre, my husband and I went to the rescue. It is not often that little orphaned animals are returned to their mums but we always hold out hope. On arriving we found three little dogs yapping round the base of the palms where the lady was standing, clasping a towel which we guessed held the little baby.
‘Please,’ we asked, ‘please lock the dogs away’? Quietly to ourselves we said this is probably how baby fell out of the pouch, just having a tiny explore and the dogs barked and mum took off without bub, left it hanging on to a palm frond.
O.K. Dogs locked away, had a wee peep at the little one. We checked her over and she was fine. We saw big brown eyes staring from the tiny face of a little female baby brushtail that was just cutting fur. In her eyes one could read ‘I want my mum’! Alright, I am imagining that, but that is obviously what she would have been thinking.
To work! Fortunately the people of the household had fed the brushtails a little fruit from time to time, so the mother possum was fairly trusting. We popped the little one into the small fibre basket that Rod had fashioned, and had tied to the end of a pole, and slowly Rod held it up towards mum brushtail. I held my breath. Baby let out a squark, then started to cry. Mum obviously knew it was her baby, and slowly she came down the palm tree. Baby climbed out of the basket but landed upside down on mum’s tail. Not good. We had to turn her around so she could climb up into the pouch.
Hardly breathing we watched as Rod turned baby around so she could get into the pouch. Rod held his breath too because mum possum (and remember brushtails have a nasty bite) started to sniff his hand. No, she obviously didn’t feel that he was a danger. Baby must have smelt the milk bar, so she decided to lean in and have a drink before doing anything else. Hurry baby, climb into the pouch. She took her own time, but we all heaved big sighs of relief when baby possum was finally back in mum’s pouch.
But no! One little foot was out of the pouch, clutching a little piece of palm leaf. Oh my goodness! If the mum took off, baby would be hauled out of the pouch once again. Painstakingly we persuaded baby to pull her tiny foot back into the pouch.
We asked the people could they possibly keep the dogs away from the possum, and they were fine with this, and even said they would go out immediately and buy a possum box. This was good news, as I’m sure mother possum would appreciate this, having lost some gum trees behind the people’s house due to new development.
Mum possum then decided that after such a stressful morning she would have a little kip curled up in amongst the fronds of the palm trees. Surely for wildlife carers this has to be one of the best outcomes of all.
Jan Smith – 14 June 2015
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