Did you find a bunny nest in your garden? Did your dog or cat bring a little friend to the door? Every year thousands of Eastern Cottontails, better known as your common wild rabbit, are brought to wildlife facilities across the country. What may seem like an abandoned or orphaned baby bunny may in fact be living on its own. Below is more information on Eastern Cottontails that will help you decide whether or not to bring the animal into our care.
Eastern Cottontails can nest nearly anywhere in your yard, but prefer shrubbery or any vegetation that will provide a cover. Each litter can contain anywhere from four to six rabbits. What many people don’t know is that the mother will not stay at the nest throughout the day. She will leave and only visit to feed around dawn and dusk in order to keep predators away. Should you ever find a nest of Cottontails in your yard, the best thing to do is leave it alone. Try to keep your dogs or cats away from the area as best you can. One way to determine if the mother has abandoned the nest is to place two sticks or twigs in an “X” on top of the nest. Wait 12-24 hours, and check back after dawn or after dusk. If the “X” has been untouched, there is a chance the mother has abandoned the nest. In this situation, you could bring the nest to the Wildlife Sanctuary.
This bunny pictured is 7-10 days old. Its eyes are still shut, and its ears are pointed down against the back. If the nest is abandoned and the rabbits are about this age, they should be brought to the Wildlife Sanctuary because they still need the nutrients of the mother’s milk several times a day. As difficult as it may be to resist their adorableness, DO NOT keep them as pets. They are considered wildlife, and it is illegal to keep them in your home.
The bunny pictured to the left is about two weeks old. At this age, their eyes are just opening and their ears become erect. They are just beginning to eat vegetation, but still need some of their mother’s nutrients. If they are found alone or outside of the nest, they will likely survive on their own and should not be brought to the Sanctuary.
Another thing many people don’t know is that Cottontails are living on their own at the young age of about three weeks. So, if you do find a nest in your yard, don’t worry! They will not be there for very long.
The bunnies pictured to the right are about three weeks old. The ears are fully erect, and they are completely weaned from their mother’s milk. They can still live together in the nest, but will most likely leave the nest very soon to live on their own. If you find rabbits about this age, it is okay to leave them alone–they will survive on their own in the wild!
If you have an Eastern Cottontail that was attacked, injured, or bleeding, you should bring it into the Sanctuary–we will do our best to help it. We strive to release all of our animals back into the wild!
Pictures courtesy of Sarah Kulas, Eastern Cottontail rehabilitator at the Wildlife Sanctuary.