Karen Brace has been a registered wildlife rehabber since 2012. She was used to tending to all kinds of animals, especially squirrels, which were her first love.
It wasn’t until she received a box in 2017 –a box filled with 11 orphaned possums. At first she thought of them as aliens from the “Men in Black” movies thanks to their jet black eyes and tiny pink noses. At the same time, it’s the moment she fell in love with them.
Brace took them to a wildlife rehabilitator in Culpeper County and begged them to teach her everything she needed to learn in taking care of them.
To make her house more homey and show her passion for possums, she decorated it with flags, statues and even signs of the nut seekers!
“I think they are the most misunderstood animal in all of Virginia,” Brace, who also does background investigation for the State Department, said. “Most people think possums are vicious, aggressive animals that are disease ridden, but they’re actually very docile. They will try to get away from you if they can.”
Brace said possums often hiss and growl and spit as part of their defense. It can be handy taking care of them, she said, adding that it may be the reason why many people believed the animals are crazy and dangerous. However, she said it is only “an act.
Carolyn Wilder, president of the Wildlife Rescue Club in Northern Virginia, where Brace is also a member of, agrees that possums are not the kind of animal to win any popularity contests.
Most people believe possums have rabies, but Opossum Society of the United States contradicts this by explaining that a possum’s body temperature is so low that it will be very rare of them to carry the virus. Also, they look like a rat, which does not really appeal to most humans as appealing and cuddly like a dog or cat.
Possums are known as the only native marsupial in North America. It is illegal to keep a wild animal as a pet. State law says any wild animal that cannot be released should be put down instead or could be used as an educational animal.
So Brace kept Stuart, one of the possums, and she filed permits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Brace takes Stuart in all her educational forums, teaching the community about the importance of possums and how they can help in keeping the environment friendly.
Possums mainly eat just about anything they encounter. They eat 4,000 to 5,000 ticks per season, helping reduce the spread of tick-borne diseases. They are also immune to snake venom and could maintain the population of mice, rats, and cockroaches. Possums also eat rotten fruits, veggies, and garden pests.