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i've found baby bunnies - what do i do?

If a baby bunny is visibly injured, covered in fly eggs (which look like small grains of rice), cold, wet, and/or bleeding, then it needs rehabilitation.  Please contact us for next steps.

rEUNITING BABY BUNNIES WITH MOM

Each spring, we get flooded with orphaned bunnies for a variety of reasons. We do our best to give every bunny a second chance at life, but our specialized care does not come close to the care they receive from their mother. To ensure their best chance of survival, bunnies should be reunited with their mothers whenever possible.

WANT TO HELP OUR BUNNIES IN CARE?

If you find a healthy baby bunny, follow these simple steps to reunite it with its mother:

What’s normal

We’re used to seeing rabbits in storybooks and in cartoons nesting underground in holes. Eastern cottontail rabbits (the most common species in Michigan) don’t nest like that. Instead, the mother digs a shallow depression (almost like a bowl) in the ground. Usually it’s in the grass, but it might be in a planter or a landscaped area with wood chips. She lines the nest with dry grass, leaves, and fur she pulls from her body. Once the babies are inside, she covers them up with more dried grass and fur. The nest is very well camouflaged and the babies have no scent, so it’s often weeks before it is discovered.

If the nest has been disturbed:

  • Recreate the nest as best you can, in the exact same spot it was originally in. Use any remaining nesting material.  If you need extra you can use some dried grass. Tuck the babies back in the nest and make sure they are covered up with nesting material.

 

If you believe mother is no longer coming to the nest:

  • Mother rabbits don’t want to attract predators to their babies, so they mostly leave them on their own, hidden and camoflaged. Mom will come back a few times a day, usually between dusk and dawn, to feed the babies. Feeding may only take 2-3 minutes, so unless you’re watching 24/7 you will probably miss it!

  • To see if the mother rabbit is coming back to a recreated nest, you can do the "flour" test and pour a ring of flour around the nest. It can help to take a photo of this, so you can compare it later. Leave the flour overnight, and check in the morning. Was it disturbed? That’s great — it means mom came back overnight and fed the babies. 

  • If you tried a flour test and cannot tell or it appears it was undisturbed, take a photo of the babies (back and belly) and text them to us for confirmation if it appears they have been fed.

Leave the nest alone

  • If the flour was clearly disturbed or you saw mother by the nest and know the mother rabbit is coming back to feed the babies, leave the nest alone. Cottontail rabbits do very poorly in captivity – their best bet at survival is with their mom.

  • The good news is that cottontail rabbits grow up really quickly! They start leaving the nest as early as 3 weeks old, and soon disperse from their mother’s territory.

Can I move the nest to a better spot?

  • No. Rabbits are very specific about the location of their nest. Moving it even a foot or two away will cause the mother to abandon it. Mother rabbits are also one of the only mammals who cannot pick their babies up to move them to a better spot.

I don’t want my pets to hurt the rabbits

  • A mother Cottontail will often choose to nest in a backyard with big dogs. We think that’s because she knows her babies will be safer there from natural predators, like raccoons, skunks, or opossums. Smart mom!

  • Remember that cottontail rabbits grow up really quickly – they leave the nest at about 3 weeks old.  If the babies have their eyes open they are at least 10 days old, meaning they’ve been in your yard for two weeks without you even noticing! It might be inconvenient, but keeping your dog leashed for those 3 short weeks is the best thing you can do to keep baby rabbits safe and with their mother. You can use temporary fencing or a laundry basket to section off the area with the nest – just make sure there is a hole at ground level big enough for the mother rabbit to get through. For added security with strong dogs, you can stake the laundry basket to the ground!

  • Cats can also be a threat to baby rabbits. While we love cats, we are big advocates of transitioning them to indoors-only to help negate the damage done to wildlife. CLICK HERE for tips on how to help your cat make the big change!

other FAQ:

Should I leave food or water for the mother rabbit?

  • No. Leaving food or water near the nest runs the risk of attracting predators like raccoons, skunks, or outdoor cats. If you want to help the mother rabbit out, hold off on mowing the grass for a few weeks.  You could also stop pulling up dandelions. Dandelions are one of a rabbit’s favorite foods!

The nest is in a busy area

  • It might still be possible to keep the babies with their mother. Talk to someone in charge – school administrators, park stewardship organizations, property managers, etc. They might be willing to cordon off the area with the nest, or put up signage to keep people cautious and away from the nest. Remember that cottontail rabbits do poorly in captivity, so keeping them with their mother is really their best chance at survival.

  • MYTH! If you touch a baby rabbit, its mother will not usually abandon it. Rabbits are excellent moms. All they want is their baby back.

  • If you feel the nest is in a spot where you can’t possibly leave the babies until they’re big enough to leave on their own, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.

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