After learning that educational animal ambassador Webster had inoperable cancer, the veterinary team at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island made the decision Wednesday to humanely euthanize the Virginia opossum.
The difficult decision came after biopsy results confirmed a form of invasive cancer in Webster’s mouth the aquarium announced.
“These kinds of decisions are always, always difficult – and the team here at Roanoke Island is taking it very hard,” said Elizabeth Huber, husbandry curator at the Roanoke Island aquarium. “But Webster’s quality of life outweighs all else, and he will always be in our hearts and minds as we celebrate the joy he brought to so many of our visitors through our educational programs.”
Webster came into the care of the aquarium’s husbandry team almost four years ago after he was orphaned, and it was discovered that his rear hip joints were not properly developed. In the wild, this condition would prevent him from climbing trees to search for food, escape predators, and to rest, making a release into his natural habitat unfeasible, according to the aquarium.
While opossums only have a 1-to-2-year lifespan in the wild, Webster lived almost four years.
“I take comfort in knowing he is so loved,” said Dr. Emily Christiansen, North Carolina Aquarium Division veterinarian. “He had such an excellent long opossum life that he would not have had otherwise if he wasn’t part of our family.