WESTFIELD, NJ — The opossum was well under 9-inches-long and only a couple of pounds when Kristine Jennette found it Thursday morning.

Jennette, a Westfield resident, found the marsupial on Clover Street and, fearing for its safety, she placed the youngster in a box. The animal’s eyes were open, and he appeared to be just a baby, Jennette told TAPinto Westfield.

She provided the opossum — whom she has named Gus — a blanket and later transported it to the Garden State Wildlife Center, a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation center in Howell.

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If it is a female opossum, Jennette said, Gus will be named Gustine.

It takes about an hour to get to Howell from Westfield — nearly 49 miles if you take the Parkway, and so Jennette had time to observe her find.

“He became very lethargic on the way down, and the rehabber just took him and brought him right in,” Jennette said. “She’ll do her best, and hopefully he’ll survive.”

Instructions from the Wildlife Center on handling such a situation show that Jennette did just the right thing when she found Gus, or Gustine.

Opossums that are less than 7 inches long, not including the tail, are thought to be in need of immediate assistance, the center’s website states.

A call placed to Garden State Wildlife Center late Thursday evening seeking the condition of the opossum found in Westfield was not returned as of this writing.

The Opossum Society of the United States reports that while appearing similar to large rats, opossums are not related to their nosey look-a-like’s.

“Despite its appearance, the opossum is not related to the rat,” the society’s website states. “In fact, the opossum is a marsupial, or ‘pouched’ mammal, and is therefore related to other marsupials such as the kangaroo and the koala.”

Once rehabilitated, Gus would have to return to the wild, as state law requires all pet opossums come from a licensed dealer.

“A captive game permit would be needed,” the state Division of Fish and Wildlife states. “You cannot obtain a raccoon, skunk or opossum from the wild and keep it as a pet.”

Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh