By Laurel Meleski, Program Coordinator II

One of my favorite things about living in the Sacramento area is being so close to the river. There are some beautiful trails to walk, and you can see birds, deer, and squirrels year-round. Even so, my 4th of July weekend was notably full of wildlife this year. In addition to the wildlife I usually see, I got to see a family of river otters on the South Mokelumne River, plus two coyote and four beaver on the American River. Then I saw, up close and personal, eight baby opossum on my doorstep.

I guessed that something had happened to their mama, because these little babies still had their eyes closed and shouldn’t have been separated from her for any length of time. I hoped the mom might come back, so I gathered them in a low-sided container to keep them together and put them in a safe place near where I found them. I kept interaction to a minimum, but once night fell I had to bring them in because it was too cold for them and not safe due to roaming cats in the neighborhood. I put their container in a warm spot and left them alone for the night. The possibility of complications is too great with these tiny babies, so I did not try to give them food or water, just kept them safe and warm. Sadly, the next morning I found that three of the eight were not quite strong enough and they’d passed in their sleep. The remaining five were fighters and made sure I knew it by loudly protesting when I had to move them.

We have a wonderful organization locally, Wildlife Care Association, who takes in orphaned and injured wildlife and raises them to release back into the wild. They’re volunteer-run and are open every day of the year (except for a half day on Christmas). On the morning of July 4th I went out to the Wildlife Care Association and gave my orphaned little opossums into the care of the people who will get them the specialized care they’ll need to survive.

As if that wasn’t an amazing bounty of wildlife for one week, I also got to see two rattlesnakes, a family of quail, and a beautiful deer who posed like a Disney character! All were on the American River – so watch your step out there in the evenings to make sure that stick you’re about to step over isn’t moving.