Rabbits, Rabbits Everywhere
Spring is the height of baby animal season, and baby bunnies are everywhere- in yards, meadows and golf courses. Many forms of danger lurk for baby rabbits, from lawnmowers to people who think nests have been abandoned and outdoor cats and dogs.
“Springtime brings many calls to wildlife hotlines,” says Laura Simon, field director for the HSUS urban wildlife program, “Lots of baby rabbits are taken to wildlife rehabilitation centers for injuries that could have been prevented.”
Those who “rescue” baby rabbits are advised to return them to the nest immediately. Gloves should be worn, because mother rabbits are sensitive to disturbance and unfamiliar smells. Surprisingly, it is normal to find baby rabbits left alone. The mother returns only twice a day to nurse, and stays away the rest of the time so she doesn’t attract predators. By the time the baby bunnies are three weeks old (the size of a chipmunk), they are ready to hop out on their own.
If you are concerned about whether or not the mother has returned to care for her young, you can perform the “X” test. Place a double ‘X” of yarn or string over the nest, then check back 12 hours later. If the mother has returned to nurse them, the ‘X” will have been pushed aside but the babies will still be covered with nesting material. If the “X” is intact after 12 hours, the babies are probably orphaned, and a licensed wildlife rehabilitator should be contacted.
There are plenty of dangers for baby rabbits that homeowners should also be aware of. Lawns should be checked carefully for rabbit nests before mowing, especially when the grass is higher than usual. Outdoor cats and dogs also pose a major threat to baby rabbits, due to their natural prey instincts. If your pet has gotten a hold of a baby bunny, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian should see any injured rabbit immediately to administer aid. It is also vital to bring the pet indoors immediately. A dog or cat will remember the location of the nest and want to return, putting the other baby rabbits at risk.
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