Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Day . A baby possum

Christmas morning

A special day was made even more special for me by a little adventure that my mother and I had in the morning.
I had travelled home for Christmas to Toowoomba (regional Queensland – population `150 000?)  from Sydney and had promised myself to do more nature sketching when I was there. I wanted to go out into nature to draw, rather than drawing nature objects , such as feathers,  in my apartment.

I had my chance before I knew it (although it still was sketched at home) !

On Christmas morning, Mum and I went for an early morning walk. Up the street we came across a dead brushtail possum on the footpath, just off the road. This is not unusual, as possums live in the urban community and can be pests (especially if there is one living in your roof). This one must have been knocked by a car and wandered onto the path to die. There were no visible injuries. But she was definitely dead. We looked closer and saw movement. 
There was a baby possum in her pouch !
The tail was the only thing poking out from the pouch, and when I touched the pouch he moved more.  (I shall call it a he rather than it or she) . Movement was a good sign!
But we did not know what to do! Thankfully, I remembered the name of an organisation that takes care of injured native wildlife and phoned to get their number. I left a message on voicemail and we walked home, as there nothing we could do.
I sketched what I had seen from memory, not knowing how the day would turn out or if I would see it again. The experience is a memory that will stay with me for a long time
the joey's tail poking out of the mothers pouch

Trish, the volunteer carer from Wildlife Rescue, Rehabilitation and Education Association called back (she was out feeding 12 baby joeys) and gave us instructions. This was all before 7.30 am on Christmas morning !!!

The volunteer lives 35 minutes drive away and still had some animals to feed. We walked very quickly back to the possum, hoping that nothing had happened in the meantime. We had been asked to see if he was off the mother teat, but he did not want to move away from inside the pouch. So we picked up the body of the mother (about the size of a small cat) with joey  still in pouch. She was so light. I expected a heavy body.
A quick walk home and followed more instructions. The mother’s body temperature would be dropping so we filled a drinking water bottle with warm water and laid it against the pouch.


It was an anxious wait to see if he would stay alive. Every now and then I would go in and stroke the pouch, the joey would wriggle inside and I would sigh with relief that he was alive.

I also had the chance to sketch a special moment. I have sketched animals taxidermed at the museum before, but was not sure how I would be about sketching a recently dead animal. I felt ok as the little baby was still alive. I am not sure how you all feel about this?
I guess I am an inner city Sydney girl, who does not have much interaction with nature. 

Trish arrive at 10 am. She removed the joey carefully and put him in a little soft material pouch. If he was taken off the mother's teat too quickly it would have torn the inner membrane of his mouth. I am so glad I did not try to do that. Mum took one quick photo as Trish held him. We would have loved to take more and look longer, but it was not the right time or place. Getting the little possum into proper care was most important.

He is 15 weeks old and nice and healthy.
His skin is velvety and he is about 15 cm long,

Trish will feed him every three hours at first . He will stay in her care until maturity.  

I felt a huge sense of responsibility for this little vulnerable animal. It made my day that we assisted in saving his life.  and on Christmas Day it seemed even more special. I will be making a donation to Trish and her volunteer carers who do such wonderful work in helping our native wildlife.

This is what a possum looks like - mother and baby (older than our little joey)






  1. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story and sketches.

  2. This is the most wonderful Christmas story, Alissa...thank you.

  3. Wow, what a story! And what wonderful illustrations.

  4. Wonderful tale Alissa. We seem to go through a few nights every year about this time when the latest young adult possum is kicked out of mum's nest in time for the next baby. The problem is the young adults keep trying to gnaw their way into our roof cavity. But they are soon on their way - with mum's stern support! So far no possums in our roof - fingers crossed.

  5. Your story and the sketches are a treat! … a Christmas memory for you forever.

  6. Excellent post, Alissa! Great story & drawings!

  7. What a beautiful post, Alissa. My eyes welled up with tears of sadness for the Mummy possum but also with happiness that you and your Mum passed by just at the right time and saved that that little life. Wonderful sketches of a very special moment in time.

  8. So sweet and so poignant and lovely drawings.

  9. Thank you all for reading and enjoying the very special events of my Christmas Day


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