At 3PM, I decided to try calling the wildlife sanctuary one more time. This time, they were open and a woman answered the phone.
"If you can get the opossums to us ... " she said, after I explained
"I don't have a car. How late are you open?"
"Until 5." Lut doesn't even get home until 5. "We're open from 9 to 5 tomorrow."
"Okay ... um ... I guess I'll put the babies in a box and take them in tomorrow morning?" If they live that long. If they're still alive now, and no dog ate them and Animal Control didn't come early and kill them when they took the mother's corpse.
I hadn't taken lunch yet, so I skipped it and ran home at 4:50. Literally ran: I'd planned to jog home anyway, although I skipped the extra mile or two of jogging I'd normally do. When I got home, I saw that a couple of the babies had started roaming away from the mother; one was a couple of feet away. They're little things, mouse-sized and looking a lot like mice with large heads and thick hairless tails. I stepped past them to get the key from the garage, and dashed into the house to get a box and gloves and whatnot. While I was grabbing stuff from the house, Lut managed to get home and not run the roaming baby over or anything. He was wondering why the garage door was open and was going to look for a box himself when I came out with a big plastic tub.
I started scooping up baby possums and putting them in the tub. I don't know how many baby possums I was expecting. I'd seen a couple of tails last night, so I was thinking ... maybe three or four? There were a couple roaming loose. And then more tucked against their mother's corpse. And then more underneath her. And more still inside her pouch.
Prying baby possums out of their dead mother's pouch is not as hideous as I thought it would be, but still not fun.
When I was done, I had twelve baby possums in a big plastic tub.
We did some quick research online. When I decided to do this, I was thinking "OK, I'll just put them in a box with a towel and some water in the basement and whoever survives can go to the wildlife shelter tomorrow, if any of them do".
This project suffered from serious scope creep.
I took them inside, took them to the basement, and decided that it was too cold in the basement for them. What little research I'd done said to keep them warm, surround them in soft cloth, and don't use terrycloth because their teeny claws can get hooked in the cloth loops and cause injury. So I got some old clothes that don't fit and I don't like out of the basement, and then Lut got more old clothes and another tub because I decide to clean them off (they were covered in foul yellowish goop which was, at a guess, varying parts urine, feces, and decaying corpse) and express them (another one of the recommended first-aid steps with orphaned baby possums; they need manual stimulation to eliminate. This, too, was less awful than it sounds but still not on my top ten list of Fun Activities). So I would take a dirty possum from the first tubful, clean it, express it, and put it in the tub of clean possums. When I first started gathering them up and moving them, they were all very anxious and squirmy and active. They made little chuffing noises that sounded like a cat sneezing. As time passed they quieted down, getting less worried. I hope. As opposed to, say, slowing down in activity because they were dying.
While I cleaned possums, Lut trundled off to the store to get an eletrolyte solution to try to feed them and a converter socket for the light in the extension to turn it into a power outlet so I could plug a heating pad in. By the time he got back, I'd discovered the heating/massage pad we had wasn't working for heat. So I went back to the store to buy a heating pad. I tried to feed them the electrolyte solution but none of them seemed interested in licking or suckling.
At the moment, they're wrapped up and warm. I left a moist sponge with them, as a compromise between "don't try to feed them because they'll get aspirate" and "they'll die of dehydration". One of the sites recommended a sponge to simulate the moist warmth of the pouch anyway. They're sleeping now, except for when I go out to make sure they're still alive and warm, at which point some of them chuff at me, and the rest try to get some rest and all of them wish I'd stop bugging them. The heating pad has an automatic shut-off, so I keep having to turn it back on.
They're really quite cute. Cuteness is definitely a survival trait.
I hope they make it another eight hours until I can get them to the wildlife sanctuary.