How to Help Wild Rabbits
Many people mean well when they contact us after discovering an "abandoned" nest of wild rabbits. Often they wish to "rehabilitate" them with some advice from others. The reality is that fewer than 10% of orphaned rabbits survive a week, and the care that people attempt to provide can be illegal, unnecessary and potentially harmful.
QI found a nest of bunnies in my yard. DID THEIR MOTHER ABANDON THEM?
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 come to the nest and nurse their babies at dawn and dusk. Do not move or disturb the babies.
To confirm that the mother is coming to the nest (you’re not likely to see her), place the babies back in the nest (if you have already removed them and it's alright that you may have touched them), cover them with the nesting material and place small twigs over the top in a recognizable pattern (such as a hashtag). Check the nest in 24 hours. If the twigs have been disturbed you know the mother has been back to feed her babies. This is a good thing and you can allow nature to take its course. If the nest have NOT been disturbed, get the babies to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator (see below) as they should not go more than 24 hours without feeding.
QThe nest is in the middle of the yard and I HAVE a dog/cat. What do I do?
Since mom only visits in the early morning and evening hours, you can cover the nest with a breathable container (like a wicker laundry basket) and weight it down so your dog can’t move it. Or, you can put chicken wire around the nest with stakes. During the days when kids and the dog/cat are outside, keep the wire down. In early evening, lift the wire all around about 12 inches so that mom can come to nurse at night and again in the morning.
For more complete information, please visit the National House Rabbit Society’s Orphaned Baby Bunnies webpage. They have a wealth of information designed to help you.
If you have a wild adult rabbit who is injured or a baby who is truly abandoned and in need of professional assistance, you can find a list of New Jersey State Licensed Rabbit Rehabilitators by clicking here.
Remember, 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. Number 1: Take time to assess the situation. Are they really orphaned?, and Number 2: If orphaned, take them to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately.
Updated: May 31, 2016