Target: Jud Easterwood, Supervising Wildlife Biologist of Alabama’s Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries
Goal: Allow licensed wildlife rehabilitators in Alabama to rescue and care for injured and orphaned opossums
Alabama’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has recently changed their state’s policy regarding the rehabilitation of animal wildlife. Officials now forbid anyone from rescuing or rehabilitating seven mammal species, including opossums. In order to legally continue to rehabilitate wildlife, rehabbers are expected to comply with the new regulations that require them to euthanize fur-bearing wild animals brought to them. The new rules will have a tragic impact on the many injured and orphaned opossums that could potentially be saved by wildlife rehabilitators.
The opossum is North America’s only marsupial. These fascinating animals carry their developing young in a pouch. Opossums are recognized by their prehensile tail and long snouts. They are solitary foragers and typically crepuscular, meaning they are active during dusk and dawn. Opossums eat garbage, carrion, insects, rotten fruit, rodents, and snails. Because of their tendency to keep to themselves and act as a ‘clean up crew’ by consuming refuse and pest insects and rodents, they are very beneficial animals to coexist with.
Opossums are resilient and adaptable to urban environments but they still face many human-related threats, including injury from cars and conflict with pet dogs. Mother opossums that are fatally injured by cars may have living babies in their pouches. Experienced rehabbers are able to successfully rehabilitate and release orphaned babies who have lost their mothers to car injuries.
Wildlife management officials are concerned about the spread of disease, but the fact is an opossum’s body temperature is too low to incubate most viruses. Opossums are not considered serious rabies vectors in any of their range. They are resistant to many viral diseases such as distemper, parvovirus, and feline hepatitis. Licensed rehabbers follow strict protocols to protect both human and animal safety during the rehabilitation process.
It is our responsibility to intervene when animals are harmed by anthropogenic activities. Please sign this petition to allow opossums in need to be rehabilitated.
Dear Jud Easterwood,
Prohibiting the rehabilitation of wild animals such as opossums in the state of Alabama will lead to needless suffering for both wildlife, and humans who benefit from the ecological niche that opossums fulfill. Opossums help to maintain a clean and healthy urban environment by eliminating pests. It is important to save the lives of these unique animals through rehabilitation. Including opossums on the list of common rabies vector species that are no longer permitted for rehabilitation in your state is misleading because opossums are more resistant to rabies than any other mammal. Their low body temperature prevents many viruses of concern from incubating.
Wildlife rehabilitators take tremendous pride in rescuing and caring for injured and orphaned opossums. They have knowledge and special training to successfully and safely rehabilitate these animals for release back into the wild. I urge you to enable rehabilitators to provide an invaluable service to the community by allowing them to accept rescued opossums for rehabilitation. It is crucial for licensed rehabilitators to be able to observe the protocols of their permitting agencies and still fulfill their humane mission. Humans have a large and devastating effect on wildlife including opossums, and therefore we have a responsibility to offset our negative impact by helping animals in need.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Brian Tang via Flickr