Pican died early this morning. She was 8. She was mother of three and is the first glider I have lost in my care.
I had noticed her slowing down a little and a day ago I noticed her perching up high all by herself which I have never seen her do. So I have been keeping a worried eye on her. Yesterday afternoon when I pulled out the food bowls I peered into her group pouch and found one of her children had been overgrooming on her for awhile to such extent that she had ripped a large gaping hole in her mothers back and was in the process of continuing to do so and did not want to stop or let go. I dug Pican out of there and tended to her wound. The hole was the skin only, not the body and there was no blood. But The skin was so loose, I could easily move it around and peer inside at her muscles and whatnot. It was very strange and also did not seem to cause her discomfort.
I did what I could to the wound to keep her for the night until we could see the vet in the morning. Around 3am I went to bed and realized that she was probably not going to make it. She was very sluggish and only wanted to rest her head and would not take her favorite food. I gave her a petting, a kiss on the head and one last "I love you" and I think she passed soon after alone in her pouch. I am pretty sure that she succumbed to her original problem whatever that may be and not the fresh wound. I dont think a vet would have been able to save her as it was an internal problem, perhaps a liver failure or just old age.
So why did Junior start eating mommy alive? Maya is one of the last born twins and she takes after her mom as far as being food aggressive with her siblings. She is not a biter, but she is bitey. She bites the feet of the other cage mates and even daddy. It's an odd behavior that I have also seen in my colony of 8. It seems that they know biting causes grief and they use that tool if they want to.
I think Maya was grooming mom and a nibble that would have normally gotten a reprimand went unanswered by mom. Maya kept grooming and pulling and nibbling and sooner or later she got too far into it and broke skin and then kept going.
It is a very strong instinct of gliders to be "mouthy". Most owners will attest that gliders will remove scabs or try to bite off a wart or mole or yank your hair. In nature they bite everything they are curious about as that is a large part of how they perceive the world. They bite into trees to make them bleed out yummy juices. They bite worms and berries and whatever they see ends up in the mouth.
As smart as they seem, I do not think that these animals have any understanding of life and death. I do not think that little Maya was trying to harm mom, she was just nibbling away at something new and removing something that didnt seem like it should be there. Unfortunately, tired old mom just sat there and let her go at it.
This afternoon I let her mate named Buddy explore her body. He nosed around her a bit, climbed on top of her for a bit, left some poo and moved on. I dont get a feeling that he knew anything specific or that he'd miss her but it was worth a try. He has his three kids to keep him company now.
Pican was not my favorite critter. She was bitchy, fussy, noisy and would bite if you didnt handle her super gently. But I was able to take her from her previous 5 years alone in a tiny cage eating catfood and shrimp. I gave her a mate and children and a family to spend the last few years of her life with. So I am happy that I was able to have her and I will miss bitchy old Pican.
Rest in peace Mommy.