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Injured opossum finds forever home at Red River Zoo

Fancy, an opossum rescued in Georgia, enjoys more mobility with the aid of a small scooter.

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Injured Virginia opossum Fancy lies next to her scooter Thursday, March 18, 2021, at the Red River Zoo, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO โ€” Sally Jacobson, executive director of the Red River Zoo in Fargo, was on the lookout for an opossum to add to the zoo's collection of all creatures great and small when she heard about Fancy, a charming little marsupial who is now on display at the zoo.

Fancy comes from Georgia, where it is believed she suffered a spinal injury after being hit by a vehicle.

After she was found, Fancy was taken to a rehabilitation center for wild animals. When Jacobson heard about Fancy a few weeks ago, she drove to Kentucky to meet with people from the Georgia rehab center, pick up Fancy and bring her back to the zoo.

Jacobson said in the short time Fancy has been at the zoo she has fit right in, despite the fact she dealt with more than a simple change of scenery.

Estimated to be 1 to 2 years old, Fancy has only partial use of her hind legs.

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However, with physical therapy it's hoped Fancy will regain something close to full mobility, according to Jacobson, who said despite her disability Fancy gets along well on her own and even better when strapped into a small wheeled scooter provided by the folks at the Georgia rehab center.

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Veterinary technician Ashley Traina, left, and zookeeper Sara Cushing reposition opossum Fancy during an examination Thursday, March 18, 2021, at the Red River Zoo, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

"They're really great animals to use for all sorts of educational purposes," Jacobson said, referring to opossums, which she said tend to be loners in the wild.

Opossums are known to feed on a variety of things, including insects.

"They eat a lot of wood ticks," Jacobson said, adding that because they are omnivores opossums will "eat just about anything."

Veterinary technician Ashley Traina, who helps care for Fancy, said her new ward is getting used to her surroundings but will probably always be a little on the jumpy side.

"She's a nervous girl. Most opossums are, because everything tries to eat them," Traina said.

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Fancy is a Virginia opossum, and according to Merriam-Webster, opossum may be pronounced with the first syllable silent, making it sound like possum, or with the first syllable pronounced, making it sound like uh-possum.

The latter is preferred by "the science types," according to Merriam-Webster.

To compound confusion, there is an entirely different marsupial, called the possum, which lives in Australia.

That animal's name may also be pronounced either possum, or opossum, according to Merriam-Webster, which notes that some people hold tight to the idea that the North American animal should only be referred to as the opossum and the Down Under version as the possum.

In addition to Fancy, the zoo recently acquired two other opossums, but Jacobson said those animals are still being assessed and are not yet on display.

Jacobson said opossums have short life spans, meaning Fancy may have just one or two years at the zoo.

"That's the beauty of this animal," Jacobson said, adding, "Even though her lifespan is fairly short, it's going to be purposeful. Lots of families are going to learn and have fun while learning."

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I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com.
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