A Massachusetts opossum is getting a new lease on life thanks to his new role at New Bedford's Buttonwood Park Zoo.

Odin the opossum is the zoo's newest member of the Animal Ambassador Program, an education program that allows zoo visitors, as well as those who interact through the zoo through school, camp or the Zoomobile, to get up close and personal with some pretty amazing creatures. At just three months old, Odin has been through a lot. Earlier this summer, he had an unfortunate run-in with a dog where he wound up with a pretty nasty eye wound, and was brought to the New England Wildlife Center's Cape Branch in Barnstable after the dog's owner called the center.

Although the primary goal of the New England Wildlife Center is to rehabilitate animals and release them back into the wild, sometimes there are cases where the injury is too great, and the animal becomes non-releasable. But that's where programs like BPW's Animal Ambassadors come into play.

"I had reached out when we had lost our most recent pair of opossums to old age, and just let them know, you know, we were looking for a new opossum ambassador," BPW's Curator of Education Carrie Hawthorne said. "Every once in a while something will come along that is non-releasable and they do need a home for those animals. Otherwise, they have to be euthanized, and that's usually in the case of something that is either too imprinted or too injured to thrive in the wild."

The Wildlife Center ended up having to remove Odin's eye from his injury, which deemed him non-releasable. But after he met with Hawthorne and showed off his curious, sweet and calm personality, he quickly got a second chance at life with the Buttonwood Park Zoo.

"When I went to meet him back in June, he was just really calm and sweet considering all the things he had been through, and he was getting daily sub-Q fluids and vitamins put through with a needle," Hawthorne said. "You can imagine, [for] wild animals, that can be pretty traumatizing, but he's always just been very calm, he sat in my hands, he just looked around, he was very comfortable, which is what you look for in an animal ambassador. Obviously, if they're going to be out engaging with the public, we're not going to bring out animals who are not comfortable with that role, so he was a great fit just from the beginning."

Courtesy of Buttonwood Park Zoo

Hawthorne picked a fully-recovered Odin up on June 21, and the rest is history.

"We love having opossums as ambassadors just because people really tend to have kind of a negative reaction to them; they see them a certain way," Hawthorne said. "To be able to show them just how cute and interesting they are and how they have a positive role in our ecosystem can be pretty impactful. They might think twice the next time they see one out in the wild."

 

 

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