MEET OPHELIA THE OPPOSUM!
Today we sat down with Discovery Place Nature team member and animal keeper Alden Picard to learn more about Ophelia, one our most famous animal residents!
Thanks to the wonderful donations made by you—our members, supporters, and friends—to our Feed the Animals campaign over the past several
months, Ophelia and her neighbors have continued to receive excellent care while you’ve been away.
We—and our animal friends—miss you, and can’t wait to see you again at Discovery Place. Until then, we hope you and your family are staying safe and healthy during these difficult times.
To learn more about Feed the Animals or to make a donation, visit discoveryplace.org/feed-the-animals.
What kind of animal is Ophelia?
Ophelia is a Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana). Virginia opossums naturally live throughout the state of North Carolina and through much of North America. As a matter of fact, they are the only marsupial native to North America! In the wild, Virginia opossums inhabit deciduous woodlands, near water sources. They are nocturnal animals and can be found resting in trees or in dens in the ground during the day. In areas where their natural habitat has been fragmented or reduced by human activity, it is very common to see them in backyards, scavenging opportunistically for meals in trash cans. When left alone, opossums eat ticks, copperheads and other venomous snakes, fulfilling an essential predator role in our regional ecosystem.
How did Ophelia end up at Discovery Place?
Ophelia was rescued near Salisbury, NC, along with her brothers and sisters when their mother was injured. A Virginia Opossum can have a litter of up to 15 joeys. These little joeys, Ophelia included, were still nursing in their mothers’ pouch (marsupium) and too young to survive on their own.
Luckily, a local wildlife rehabilitator found and rescued them after their accident. The rehabilitator nursed the litter of young opossums until they were strong, healthy, and mature enough to survive on their own. When the time came to release these animals back into the wild, Ophelia’s brothers and sisters were returned successfully, but Ophelia was not ready to go. Despite several attempts to release
her, she kept returning to the rehabilitator.
As it turns out, Ophelia had made a permanent connection with humans. This process is known as ‘imprinting’ and typically happens early on in an animal’s life when they are developing their identity. Due to this imprinting Ophelia could no longer be released into the wild. Discovery Place Nature adopted her so that she could have safe, permanent home.