Goodbye, Patrick: NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island staff mourns loss of resident opossum

Published 8:37 am Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island has announced the death of Patrick, an opossum who served as an animal ambassador for the facility.

“The veterinary team at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize educational animal ambassador Patrick, a Virginia opossum, on May 21,” stated a press release from the aquarium. “Patrick was diagnosed with mitral valve disease earlier this year. This caused his heart to be less efficient at pumping blood, which can lead to heart failure and fluid build-up in the lungs.

“Patrick was placed on two medications to help improve his heart function after diagnosis, but due to the severity of his disease, he was retired from education programs. Unfortunately, despite medical treatment, Patrick’s condition progressed to heart failure,” the release continued.

Get the latest headlines sent to you

“Decisions such as these are not only very difficult, but they are emotionally taxing on the team here at Roanoke Island.” said Elizabeth Huber, husbandry curator at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. “Patrick’s quality of life takes priority in this situation, since he has been declining in recent months both due to his mitral valve issues and reaching the latter part of his life expectancy.”

Patrick joined NCARI’s animal ambassador collection nearly three years ago following a highway incident that deemed him “non-releasable.”

Opossums have a lifespan of one to two years in the wild and heart conditions such as Patrick’s are not uncommon as they age, according to the aquarium. “With the care team’s skilled attention at Roanoke Island, Patrick was able to extend the typical opossum lifespan and delighted many visitors and virtual visitors during the years of COVID-19,” stated the release.

“Patrick’s contributions were so very important during the time of the aquarium’s pandemic closure, and he was able to share the importance of opossum education to so many virtual visitors.” said Dr. Emily Christiansen, North Carolina Aquarium Division veterinarian. “He was tremendously loved by both staff and the public and had an excellent life that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible if he wasn’t part of our family!”