Orphaned baby opossums on the mend

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 3:03 PM EDT
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STARKSBORO, Vt. (WCAX) - A group of baby opossums found earlier this summer in the Rutland area are on the path to recovery thanks to the local man who found them and a Vermont wildlife rehabilitator.

“I have really enjoyed kind of watching them grow up,” said Steve Costello, who was out for a run in Rutland when he came across a dead mother opossum and her babies. “I ran home really quick, I got my wife. We got a box and in the meantime, we started calling rehabbers and we found one who told me what to do.”

Then he connected with Medora Plimpton, a rehabilitator who runs Howling Mountain Life Rescue in Starksboro. “The nipples of the mother go deep down inside, and to not injure them when helping them to get off a dead mother, you have to twist them and pull them off. So, Steve got the right directions and he brought them to me,” Plimpton said.

She says she has helped rehabilitate coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, foxes, skunks, squirrels, and about 15 opossums over the past five years. “Not many, because again, I focus on the larger species. But they are always amazing to work with,” she said.

Plimpton says the babies are now about 10 weeks old and will be released into the wild later this fall.

“I’m shocked at how emotionally attached I got to them really quickly. By the time I got here to bring them to Medora, I was just infatuated with them,” Costello said.

Many people who find wild baby animals fall in love with them, but Plimpton stresses the importance of remembering not only is it illegal to keep them, it is not fair to the animals. “Oh no, these guys are not pets. None of these wild animals make good pets. My favorite time is when I release them and let them go back to where they belong,” she said.

Plimpton says she and other state-licensed rehabbers work closely with Vermont Fish and Wildlife. “Sometimes game wardens will bring us animals that other people have found or confiscated,” she said.

Because rehabilitators are not funded by the state, Costello, a longtime Green Mountain Power PR specialist, began a different kind of campaign -- a GoFundMe page for Plimpton. “We have raised about $2,200 so far, and that probably won’t even cover a year of Medora’s costs of running this place,” he said.

Looking back, Costello says it would have been really easy to have kept on running, but he couldn’t just leave the babies in the road. “I was worried that they wouldn’t survive, but I wanted to at least give them a chance, and they are doing great and I can’t wait to see them when they finally get released,” he said.

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