Topeka They have beady little eyes, a lot of teeth and a rat-like body.
But to Linda Hines, opossums also have special attributes.
They’re resistant to nearly all diseases. They rarely contract rabies, they don’t get distemper and are virtually immune to poisonous snake bites.
“Opossums are the underdogs of the animal world,” said Hines, who not only rescues opossums, but lets them wander around her kitchen and crawl from her shoulder into her hair.
“Make yourself at home up there, little girl,” she said as one baby opossum climbed up her neck.
That one was one of 28 opossums resting in Hines’ house earlier this month, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal.
Hines works for Northeast Kansas Wildlife Rescue. And while having a pet opossum isn’t allowed under state law, Hines holds a legal permit to house the critters.
As of June 7, there were at least three different litters separated into small pet carriers, each housing a different set of motherless opossums.
For four years, Hines has worked to save baby opossums, who she says are victims of bad branding. She says church members ask her how she could like animals “like that?” Relatives, too, are disbelieving.
But Hines just shrugs and smiles. There’s no time for dwelling on naysayers. There are six hours of work to do each day for the opossums.
Upon rising, she changes the bedding for the bigger mammals. Then feeding time and preparation are exact. The youngest ones, only weeks old, receive a little Pedialyte through a tube attached to a syringe.
As the opossums grow, Hines transitions the formula to include a quarter of milk, then half milk. With continued maturity, opossums in Hines’ house enjoy a more balanced dietary drink consisting of powdered egg yolks, puppy formula, Nutri-Cal pet vitamin and apple juice.
Fully grown, the rescued opossums will eat Meow Mix. They used to get the more expensive Deli Cat food, but even opossum rescuers are affected by the economy.
“Why? Why?” is what she is so often asked about her rescue operation.
Because they get such a bad rap. And they might not be liked by all, but they are God’s animals, she says.
“You know, I didn’t start out wanting to put opossums in my bathroom,” Hines says.
Soon she will have to take a batch out to the wilderness and let them be opossums in nature.
She doesn’t name them. She doesn’t want them as pets. She wants them to be wild.
But it will be tough, as it always is.