Wild Rabbits; What to do if you find one needing care, etc
Rabbits In The Wild ... leave them be


In most cases, the best thing you can do is put the bunny right back where you found him, in the general area, as the Mom will only come back at night to call and find him. Leave the area. 

Rabbits hide their nests in plain view, often putting them in the open; for example, in the middle of the lawn, as well as in brush piles and long grass.

If you find a nest that has been disturbed, do all you can to restore and protect it rather than bring the infants inside.

If a dog has discovered the nest, keep your dog away from the area and reconstruct the nest with grasses. If need be, you can move the nest a few feet away where safer.

Rabbit mothers nurse their babies for approximately 5 minutes a day. They will be in the nest or nest box early in the morning and then again in the evening.

The milk is very rich and the babies "fill up" to capacity within minutes. Mother rabbits do not "sit" on the babies to keep them warm as do some mammals and birds.

They build a nest with fur and grasses which helps to keep the babies warm in between feedings. Do not force a mother rabbit to sit in the nest box. You can pick up the babies and see if they are feeding by checking the size of their stomachs (should not be sunken in), the pinkness of their skin and activity level (they should not be blue in color or sluggish in movement) and the amount of time that you hear them crying (baby bunnies should be quiet most of the day....if they are crying constantly then they are not getting fed).

If you come across a nest of bunnies in the wild and the mother is no where to be seen, please DO NOT disturb them...this is normal. By removing them from the nest you are greatly reducing their chances of survival.

If your dog disturbs a nest or you find a wild bunny with its eyes open, please put him back if not injured. Mom will be coming back at night to call and feed him only once in the middle of the night. Do not take the bunny inside or feed him. That is the mom's job. IT IS A MATTER OF HIS/HER SURVIVAL AND UP TO US AS HUMANS TO LEAVE NATURE BE AND LET THE MOM CARE FOR HER YOUNG. We often hear of mothers moving their babies and their nests, and have seen moms come back every night for up to a week to look for her missing baby. Do not take the baby from the mom or she will be frantic.

What if my dog or cat Destroyed a Rabbit Nest! What Do I Do?

Remake the nest as best you can with grasses, hay, straw in the same place. Nests can be moved to a safer place up to 10' away from the original site and can be reconstructed if necessary.

To make a new nest, dig a shallow hole about 3" deep and put into it as much of the original material as you can recover, including the mother's fur. Add dried grass as needed, and put the young back.

Mother rabbits return to the nest to nurse only at night, staying away as much as possible so as not to attract predators. To determine if the mother is returning, create a tic-tac-toe pattern over the nest with straw, grasses or tiny twigs. Wait 24 hours to see if the twigs have been disturbed. She may be able to feed them without moving the twigs much, so double check--If the babies look healthy, are warm, then the mother is coming back.

How Do I Know If the Baby Bunnies Need Help?
Very young wild baby bunnies with eyes closed and ears back rarely survive in captivity, even given the most expert human care; and so it is very important to determine whether they really need help.

Try to assess whether the infants seem warm and healthy or cold, thin, and dehydrated. One test for dehydration is to gently pinch the loose skin at the back of the neck. If it stays in a "tent," or does not spring back in one second, the bunny is SEVERELY dehydrated and needs rehabilitation IMMEDIATELY by a professional rabbit vet or rehabber.

Another test is to stroke the genital area to stimulate elimination. If the pee is brown and gritty, the mother rabbit has not been there to help the bunnies urinate. The brown, gritty urine is toxic, and the infant bunny must be cared for by a professional. Please contact a Wildlife Rehabilitator or rabbit vet immediately.

Older baby bunnies who are found outside of the nest may not be orphaned or in need of assistance. Baby cottontails are born without fur but develop a full coat in a week.

Their eyes open in 10 days, and in three to four weeks they are weaned. At this age, they may explore the world outside of the nest but return there to sleep.

They are not ignored by the mother but stay with the family group until four or five weeks of age. To determine whether a bunny of this age needs assistance, perform the dehydration test. Also look for bleeding, convulsing, fly larvae, broken limbs; if any, get to a rabbit vet or emergency vet immediately.

If he is just out and about, leave him be. He is discovering his world, waiting for mom to return at night when we humans are asleep.

If you do need to care for an injured or orphaned bunny and their eyes aren't open yet; here's what we do:

1.  ideally take it to a vet for initial hydration and care of wounds, bot flies, and injuries

2.  Keep the baby warm, ideally in an incubator or box with a heat pad on low and lots of padding

3.  Use a dropper or kitten baby bottle to feed goat's milk or kitten formula diluted with pedialyte or water

At first; use 1 part milk to 3 parts pedialyte and nurse until belly is full

If the bunny survives the next few days without diarrhea, then gradually use more milk and less pedialyte

As soon as their eyes are open, you may introduce the bunnies to plain alfalfa pellets, hay, such as oat hay, timothy, alfalfa, and for wild rabbits, in addition, add dark leafy veggies such as carrot tops, parsley, dandelion greens, etc. Dandelion greens and hay (timothy and oat hay) are extremely important for wild rabbits.

You can add whole oats and oat groats from a feed store, and some grated carrots (about a tablespoon). The greens must be fresh, rinsed, and replaced if not eaten in a few hours or they dry out and get stale. You can place them in a cup of cold water with just the tops sticking out to keep them fresher for older rabbits.

If this is a wild rabbit, you do not need to introduce pellets. If this is a domestic rabbit baby, then you may introduce plain pellets at 2 weeks of age

Wild rabbits should be released as soon as they are eating hay and greens and are approximately 5 inches in body length (cottontails) and run from you. They will be small, but the longer you keep them, the more agitated and difficult to handle they will become and the less likely their chances for survival in the wild.

Intentions For This Page:


Caring for wild baby rabbits


On Other Pages:

WildLife; our introductory page


The Beaver Story
... just for fun

Caring for baby BIRDS you fine in your yard

The Care of Domestic Rabbits
(go to my exotic pet page, but not much there yet)

Animal Pet Doctor: Home/Contents page

Life after death:
... a little joke

A couple made a deal that whoever died first would come back and
inform the other of the afterlife. The biggest fear was that there was
no heaven.

After a long life, the husband was the first to go, and true to his word,
he made contact. "Rose... Rose...."

"Is that you, Sam?"

"Yes, I've come back like we agreed."

"What's it like?"

"Well, I get up in the morning, I have sex. I have breakfast,

I have sex.
I bathe in the sun, then I have sex twice.

I have lunch, then sex pretty much all afternoon.

After supper, I have sex until late at night. The next day it starts again."

"Oh, Sam, you surely must be in heaven."

"Not exactly. I'm a rabbit in Nebraska"

From Forbes
Feb 16 2004

The European Union Parliament will reportedly take up a bill that will require game to be certified as fit and healthy before it is shot. 

It would also have to be examined by a veterinarian after it is shot to make sure there are no "abnormalities". 

Hunters say the first requirement is pretty much impossible; it is wild game, after all.  And the second would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming.

Is there anything I can do to avoid orphaning baby bunnies?

The harsh reality is that many of us who care about wild baby bunnies may be contributing to the suffering and death.

House cats who roam outside will kill baby bunnies for sport.

And unlike feral cats who hunt because they are hungry, and kill immediately, house cats maul and torment their prey, sometimes skinning baby bunnies alive.

Providing a bell on your cat will help warn the wildlife if you cannot keep him inside.

Lawn chemicals can produce convulsing death in baby rabbits.

Products which contain insecticides, such as Dursban or Diazinion, which are added to many lawn products to control fleas or grubs in the lawn, are toxic to baby bunnies.

WARNING: Jackrabbits really NEED a skilled wildlife rehabber as they can run from you, throw themselves into walls to get away; many have died or severely injured themselves in captivity as they are so very wild.

Please DO NOT raise them if you are not a skilled wildlife rehabber. This is vital. Noises and sounds easily frighten the jackrabbit and they are not able to be handled after 9 weeks.

Jackrabbits really enjoy being raised together, whereas cottontails/brush bunnies may fight and do fine alone. Give them a carrier as their place of privacy (line with thick towels) with plenty of fresh hay, dandelion greens, carrot tops, parsley, wild grasses, and some whole oats. Brush bunnies/cottontails wean themselves pretty early after a few weeks. Jackrabbits continue on formula much longer, and most are weaned about 9 weeks. Replace the formula with about two teaspoons only of cut-up banana or apple and some whole oats for weaning. Again, wild rabbits need a skilled wildlife rehabber as it is critical to their survival.

AnimalPetDoctor.com      The FoxNest Veterinry Hospital     The Animal Rescue Fund of South Carolina