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Zoo provides new home to young rescued opossum

The Zoo is now home to a 4-month-old opossum baby, known as a joey. The joey, named Ernie by keepers, was found in Burien, after his mother was killed by a dog. Without his mother, Ernie would’ve likely been killed as well by a predator like a coyote, fox, owl, snake or hawk.

The rescued joey is getting lots of care and attention behind-the-scenes, getting his fair share of fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains.

“He also really enjoys his protein, like frozen mice and fish fillets,” said keeper Suzanne.

opossum enjoying fruits and vegetables
Ernie the opossum enjoying fruits and vegetables

Suzanne says Ernie is adjusting well to his new home and around the keepers.

“He comes out of his bedroom to greet keepers when he sees them, and sniffs everyone he meets with interest,” said Suzanne. “He carefully grooms himself after meals, making sure to clean behind his pink-tipped ears each time.”

Ernie the opossum behind-the-scenes with a keeper.
Ernie the opossum behind-the-scenes with keeper Suzanne.

In the wild, joeys are no longer reliant on their mother after about 4 months. Ernie will eventually be an ambassador for his wild counterparts during Training Demos at Wild Wonders. He’s sure to be a fan favorite, with his pink nose and long whiskers.

Opossums can be found in the wild in North America, east of the Rocky Mountains and along the west coast of the United States; extending south throughout Mexico and Central America. They prefer wet woodlands and thickets near streams and swamps.

Fun fact: opossums are one of the oldest and most primitive species of mammal in North America and have changed little from their ancestors 70 million years ago. They are North America’s only marsupial.