Nests of rabbits smaller than a softball
People often encounter nests of baby rabbits when raking or mowing their lawn. Eastern Cottontails commonly nest in urban areas, in a shallow depression in the ground which is lined with fur. People can be concerned if they do not see a parent near the nest. However, it has not been damaged or the babies are not injured they should be left alone. Mothers only feed their babies twice a day for a brief period of time, usually at dawn and dusk. Otherwise a mother stays away from her nest so she does not attract predators.
It’s important to not touch the babies. Unlike birds, mammals can smell human scent. If you are concerned a mother is not tending to the nest, place two pieces of yarn or wool in a criss-cross over the nest. If the wool is undisturbed the next morning, the babies were not fed during the night. This method should only be used if you suspect the babies are not being fed (ex. a dead adult rabbit is found nearby).
Within one week, baby rabbits are fully furred and their eyes start to open. They will be weaned and independent within three to four weeks when they are the size of a softball.
It is imperative that young rabbits are left alone unless there is an obvious injury. However, if a rabbit is attacked by a cat they must be brought to Wildlife Haven immediately, even if there is no visible sign of an injury. A tiny puncture from a claw or tooth can be fatal if not treated quickly. On the other hand, a healthy infant’s chances of survival are reduced if they are brought into captivity. Baby rabbits are very stressed and often won’t eat under those conditions. If you bring a rabbit into Wildlife Haven, do not pet it. Even though it might seem like a calming presence to the animal, it could scare the animal to the point of cardiac arrest.
Rabbits larger than a softball
Rabbits larger than the size of a softball are independent and can be left on their own.