Baby Possums Snuggle Together After Losing Their Moms
Chester was nestled deep in his mother's pouch when the unthinkable happened - his mom was hit by a car, and he went flying into the night sky.
The woman who hit his mother felt awful, so she pulled over and spent more than an hour searching for her.
"She could not find the possum anywhere in the dark, but sitting in the middle of the road she saw a tiny baby joey possum looking very frantic while wondering where his mother was," Taneile Hoare, who owns Free As a Hawk Refuge in New Zealand, tells The Dodo.
"As with a baby that size, he should have been in the mother's pouch, so after being hit by her car he must have been thrown out of the pouch and onto the road," Hoare says.
Hoare was alerted to Chester's plight via social media, and decided to take him in.
But that very same night, not far away, another baby possum was off to a terrible start: A trapper had killed his mother, and when he approached her dead body, he found Barnaby peering up at him from her pouch.
"The trapper spared his little life and asked if I would like to take on the little joey to raise at our refuge," Hoare says. "And of course I said yes."
And that was how Chester and Barnaby, both newly orphaned, came to live with one another last August.
Hoare rushed to pick them up within hours of each other. Since then she's done everything for them - bottle-feeding, washing their blankets and pouches, "socializing them and helping them gain some confidence since loosing their mums, and helping them bond with me," she says.
The little possums have come a long way - they had very different personalities when they first arrived.
"Barnaby was a real mummy's boy and all he wanted was to snuggle up to you and be babied and be pampered," Hoare says.
"Chester on the other hand was Mr. Independent and wanted to do everything for himself," she says. "When it came to being bottle-fed, he wanted to hold the syringe by himself. He always had to have things his way when sharing the pouch with Barnaby, as he wanted the best spot."
"But as they grew up, Barnaby started to stand up for himself, and he is now the more dominant between the two of them," Hoare adds. "But with me they know I'm still mum and are very gentle and polite."
But they also know how to get wild: "They love running around their enclosure at night in full speed," she adds.
Hoare runs Free As a Hawk and cares for a slew of animals - from lambs and chickens to an emu and an alpaca named Cria, a recent arrival who was just 2 months old when she was orphaned.
"She just loves snuggling up to you and following me everywhere on the farm," Hoare says.
There's also a wallaby named Rango, whom Hoare says has "utterly and completely stolen my heart."
And yet he sometimes gets just a little envious of the possums.
"Rango used to get very jealous when I didn't give him his bottle first and would would reach out and try and sneak the bottle out of my hand and out of the possum joey's mouth," she says. "He never won that disagreement as the possum's milk was different to his milk."
So, don't worry, Barnaby and Chester. We're pretty sure mom loves you, too.