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  • Writer's pictureNaomi M

Help, I Found A Bunny!

A young rabbit resting on a blue fabric background
A rabbit kit resting

Spring time brings more than just pretty flowers and green grass, it is also when you will see many babies from your native wildlife! One of those species is the Eastern cottontail rabbit. Baby cottontails, or kits, are born completely helpless. Newborn kits are hairless, with eyes and ears closed. They usually lie on their sides as they do not even have the ability to sit upright until they are about 5 days old.

A small rabbit with clover in its mouth, surrounded by clover and grass
Juvenile rabbit eating clover

The mother rabbit, or doe, only comes to feed at dawn and dusk. Rabbits do this in order to keep predators away from their nest and therefore keep their babies safe. The kits do not have scent glands yet so they cannot be sniffed out by predators, so mom has to quickly feed and leave so she doesn't leave her scent. This feeding schedule can often lead to "kidnapping" by well-intentioned finders but today we will go over different scenarios to avoid this and ensure this species success. There's no better care than mom's care!

Three small rabbits with almost no fur on a pink and white fabric background
Days-old rabbits

I found a NEST

So you found a nest? Take a quick peek at the babies to make sure there are no visual injuries or blood. Please DO NOT pick them up! Bunnies have an extremely low stress threshold so every encounter can be detrimental to their health. If the babies are uninjured, ensure that the nest is hidden and the mom should return. You can also "test the nest" by laying sticks or yarn in a # formation over the nest and check on it later, if the sticks/yarn have been disturbed then mom has probably visited recently! If its clear that mom has not visited for over a day, contact a local rehabilitator to intake the babies.

I found a baby outside/away from a nest

I found an injured rabbit

A small rabbit that looks almost grown-up surrounded by grass
A young, weaning rabbit kit

Another thing to keep in mind is that kits are mature and start venturing out on their own at about 14-16 days old and are only about 4.5-5 inches long. This is a very small bunny! So if you come across a bunny of this size, it does not need any help unless it is injured. Rabbits wean and disburse away from their nest at around one month old; if you come across a nest in a place that's less than ideal, please try to leave it alone and protect it from children and pets for as long as you can - they'll be gone soon!

Two young rabbits on a grass and dirt background
Rabbits wean quickly and are on their own by 1 month old

Remember, if you every have to say "help, I found a bunny!" :

  • Its a myth that mother rabbits will not accept their kit after human contact! (contact should still be very minimal and quick)

  • If you do have to pick up a rabbit to get it to a rehabilitator, put the bunny in box with the lid closed in a very quiet place to minimize stress. Remember, stress is harmful to bunnies and can cause death.

  • ***IMPORTANT*** Do NOT try to feed them or offer hydration without first speaking to one of our wildlife experts! Offering food, water, or formula of any kind can end up hurting or even killing the babies. The absolute best thing you can do for that baby when you get it contained is to get it warm, and contact us immediately.

  • Never move a nest. As previously mentioned, kits do not have scent glands so the doe would not be able to sniff out her babies if they are moved.

A single young rabbit looks at the viewer on a white and grey background
A young rabbit ready to be weighed and fed

Thank you for not kidnapping baby bunnies! Wildlife rehabilitators are overwhelmed with animals who are truly in need of help without adding to their burden by unnecessarily taking rabbits away from their mothers. Thank you for doing your part to keep wildlife wild!


www.awildlife.org
https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/rehab/list/


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