“I found a baby bunny, what do I do?”
This is a common question we get asked in the spring. Wild rabbits will start to have litters as early as mid-March and may decide to build their nests in your backyard. First off, it’s important to note that most local veterinarians do not take in wildlife. AERC will only accept wildlife that has been injured.
So, what should you do if you find a baby bunny or uncover a nest?
Our best advice: LEAVE IT ALONE!
Do not bring the bunnies into your home, and do not try to feed the bunnies. The best chance for a bunny’s survival is for humans to leave it and the nest alone. Bunnies can survive on their own as early as four weeks old.
To protect the nest, a mother rabbit may only return to it twice a day to nurse. Often, this occurs in the middle of the night. If you come across a nest, do not disturb it. Instead, monitor the area around the nest for signs that the mother is indeed returning to check on the bunnies. You can place an “X” made of small twigs or yarn over the nest and see if it is disturbed after 24-36 hours.
What if the mom hasn’t returned to the nest?
If after two to three days, there is no evidence that the mother has been back to the nest or the orphaned bunnies appear weak and dehydrated, we recommend calling the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota (WRCMN) at (651) 486-9453 to arrange care for them.
What about my cat or dog?
Do what you can to keep your own pets away from the nest. This may require putting your dog on a leash to go into the backyard or keeping your outdoor cat inside.
What if my pet does get into the nest?
Try to cover any uninjured bunnies with hay, grass, or other nest material. Beyond that, leave the nest alone. The mother will likely come back and move the bunnies to a new location. Continue to keep your pets away from the nest until the bunnies have moved on; your cat or dog will remember the location, so it may require extra vigilance on your part to keep any remaining bunnies safe.
If any of the bunnies are injured, DO NOT place them back in the nest with the uninjured bunnies. Call WRCMN to determine the best course of action. They may instruct you to bring the injured bunny to their facility in Roseville, MN for further care.
Is it okay to care for an injured bunny by bringing it home?
We do not recommend this. Very young bunnies often do not survive in captivity, even with the best care. In addition, wild bunnies can carry a disease called tularemia. You can contract tularemia by handling a wild rabbit that is infected, so if you must handle an injured bunny, make sure to wear gloves and wash your hands well afterward.
We hope this information helps you make the best decision if you come across baby bunnies or a nest this spring. When in doubt about what to do, call WRCMN!
More information on orphaned bunnies can be found on the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota’s website and House Rabbit Society’s website:
Stephanie Pylka, DVM