In recent weeks, the South Florida Wildlife Center has seen an influx of orphaned baby opossums.
That means the supplies needed to care for about 200 baby marsupials — including plastic, igloo-style hideouts and small exercise wheels, linens, shallow feeding dishes and small storage containers — are running low.
So the nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation center, an offshoot of the Humane Society of the United States, is asking the community for help.
“We are hoping to get donations to help us care for these babies,” said Sherry Schlueter, executive director of the center, which admits 12,000 injured, orphaned, or imperiled animals every year at the center, 3200 SW Fourth Ave., in Fort Lauderdale.
Every year, the center’s nursery cares for about 600 baby opossums.
Like kangaroos, marsupial babies are carried in their mother’s pouch. Litters are often large, and sometimes, babies get separated from their mothers. Opossums can also be abandoned when their mother is killed, often by vehicles on the roadway.
While Schleuter said the center happens to currently have a lot of babies, there is nothing to indicate that there are more orphan opossums than past years. The regional biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission “is unaware” of a spike in the opossum orphan population, according to FWC Spokeswoman Liz Barraco.
The animals are reared by center staff and eventually released into the wild.
Schlueter said there tends to be “waves of different species,” depending on the season.
The summer is a popular time for orphaned opossums — often found in large litters — to be brought in.
Opossums, she said, are often a misunderstood marsupial.
“It’s unfortunate that some people don’t want them around,” she said.
First of all, she said, opossums help keep other rodent populations low by eating rotten fruit. Because of a strong immune system, an opossum can also eat some poisonous things, including snakes. She added that while there is a fear that opossums carry rabies, they don’t.
“Nobody should fear opossums,” she said. “All animals have a benefit.”
The center recently launched a mobile critter-removal service that focuses on the humane trapping of South Florida animals. If someone has animals trapped in their home or business, the center will come out and humanely remove the animals for a fee.
Miami Herald reporter Jenny Staletovich contributed to this report.
Those interested in helping can make a donation to SFWC by visiting secure.humanesociety.org/site/Donation or by visiting SFWC's supply registry at amzn.to/1LLirln. Supplies can also be dropped off at the center at 3200 SW Fourth Ave. in Fort Lauderdale.