Virginia Opossums (Didelphis virginiana) often get a bad rap, but they can actually be helpful to us and our environment!
But wait, aren’t they dangerous wild animals that can infect me with diseases? Yes, they are wild and they can carry zoonotic diseases, so you should be cautious with them, just like any other wild species. However, opossums are general not aggressive and their prime defense is to “play dead” and avoid confrontation. Additionally, they rarely contract rabies (likely due to their low body temperature) so they are a low risk vector for that disease.
Okay so how can they help me? Opossums can actually help clean up pests in the environment because they are opportunistic scavengers that eat things like cockroaches, crickets, beetles, slugs, snails, snakes, and many others. One very important target for them is ticks, which are a significant vector for Lyme disease. Opossums are very good at finding and killing ticks, thus eliminating a substantial amount of them every season. This is not only helpful to prevent disease in us, but also beneficial for pets and wildlife that can contract Lyme disease or other tick-borne illnesses. Continue reading
We have several permanent animal ambassadors at the Wildlife Medical Clinic. These individuals provide special opportunities for our volunteers and the community to connect with these animals and spread a message of conservation. Most began their time with us as patients in the Wildlife Medical Clinic, and due to the extent of their injuries they could no longer survive in the wild. We spend time each day monitoring all aspects of their health, building trusting relationships, and enriching their lives.
We have the privilege to work with great faculty veterinarians who mentor our student volunteers. WMC volunteers are trained by veterinarians how to do daily examinations of each Animal Ambassador, keeping their specific needs in mind. The veterinarians themselves also regularly perform thorough examinations of each animal. For example, an important part of bird health is the length of their beak and talons. In the wild, the hard work of catching prey and seeking shelter helps birds wear down their continuously growing beak and talons. When overgrown, the bird can have a difficult time eating and even injure themselves. Our Animal Ambassadors have their beaks and talons trimmed as needed, often every other month.
Here our volunteers are using a Dremel tool (like a tough nail file) to wear down Ruby’s nails.
If you are anything like many of us at the Wildlife Medical Clinic, then staying at home 24/7 takes a toll on you! However, this is a wonderful chance to spend some time outside (while practicing social distancing) and see the beautiful natural ecosystem of Illinois. We are lucky to have a variety of animals living just outside our doorstep that can help make staying at home that much more entertaining. With all of this newfound time, why not explore just how much there is to see outside? We present to you a scavenger hunt of things to find, see, hear, and experience, all from your own backyard! This list contains many different things that can be found in our region of Illinois. Good luck finding all of them and be sure to document your adventure with some pictures along the way! You can share your photos with us on Facebook!
- Red-tailed hawk (pro tip: look for one flying above or perched on a telephone pole)