Have you found a rabbit?
Rabbits will often raise their young right on the ground (sometimes in a small depression called a form) covered by a thin layer of grass or leaves, so their nests are easily discovered by both people and pets. A mother rabbit is likely nearby in a bush keeping watch. Because rabbits have little defenses, mothers do not stay with their young as it would attract predators. Instead, they leave their young for hours while eating, but they do return to the nest and nurse their babies at dawn and dusk. Please do not move or disturb the babies. If you accidentally kicked open a nest of baby rabbits it is best if you still just replace the top of the nest that you uncovered and leave. The mother will not return as long as you are present but after you leave the mother will return and care for the young. Do not attempt to care for the babies yourself. Rabbits are one of the most difficult wild animals to be reared by humans. Simply the stress of being taken from their outdoor home can cause them to die. For more information on rabbits in the wild please visit the New Jersey House Rabbit Society.
Take time to assess the situation. Are they really orphaned? If so, take them to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately.
- Uninjured bunnies that are 4-5 inches long, able to hop, with eyes open, and ears up do not need your help.
- If you have found bunnies with little to no fur and eyes shut, they still require the care of their mother.
- Stumbling upon a nest of bunnies in the wild is possible. Even if the mother is nowhere to be seen, Do not disturb them. By removing them from the nest you are greatly reducing their chances of survival. The fact that she is not there with them is normal. Her presence can attract predators. The mother will return in the night to nurse them.
- If you have found bunnies, stranded outside and far from their nest, then you may locate it if possible and return them to it. A rabbit nest can be identified by finding a shallow depression in the ground lined with grass and fur. It does not always have to be a burrow.
- The nest should have a grass cover as well, but if the babies were not inside, it was likely damaged. If this is so, place them in the nest, and put light layers of grass over them for cover.
- Leave them for the mother to return. Keep in mind that she will only come back to them at dawn or dusk.
- If the mother does not return, and you fear she is dead, bring them to a wildlife rehabilitator.
- An injured rabbit will benefit from the care of a rehabilitator as well.
- Signs of injury include shivering, vomiting, emaciation, bleeding, hit by a car, or attacked by a dog/cat.
How to Transport a Rescued Animal to the Wildlife Rehabilitator:
- Prepare a container. Place a clean, soft cloth or towel at the bottom of a cardboard box or cat/dog carrier with a lid. If there is no ventilation, make air holes.
- Protect yourself. Remember that these are wild animals. They are scared and may try to defend themselves. Even if the animal doesn't try to scratch, bite, or peck, parasites and diseases are common. Wear gloves, cover the animal with another cloth or towel, and gently place it in the container. Wash your hands and forearms after contact.
- Keep the animal calm and warm. Keep children and pets away. Do not bother or handle the animal longer than necessary. Keep it covered for warmth and in a dark quite place.
- Do not attempt to feed or provide water.
- Note where you found the animal. This is important for release.
- Contact a wildlife rehabilitator. Do not keep the animal in your home. It is illegal to house injured/orphaned wildlife without the proper training and credentials.
The advice expressed on this page is to be utilized at your own discretion. Laws regarding wildlife may differ between counties.