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Ask the Vet: Leave Wild Baby Bunnies Alone

Dr. Lee Pickett on

Q: While I was picking up sticks in the yard prior to mowing, I found two baby rabbits sitting in a shallow nest in the grass. The mother was nowhere to be seen. If I take these bunnies inside, how do I care for them? Would they make good family pets?

A: No, they are wild animals and cannot be domesticated. So please don't move them.

Wild rabbits stay away from their nests most of the day to avoid attracting predators. They return for only a few minutes at dawn and dusk when no one is around.

Mother rabbits use grass and fur to make nests so warm they don't need to sit on them all day as other species do. Most rabbits build their nests out in the open, sometimes in the middle of the lawn.

Rabbit milk is so rich that mothers need to nurse their young only five minutes a day. The babies grow quickly, leaving the nest within a few weeks.

Before you mow, temporarily cover the nest in your yard with a laundry basket so the babies don't bolt and get hurt by the lawn mower.

 

If your pet disturbs the nest, rebuild it, and return the bunnies to it. Then keep your pets away.

You and your children can peek at the baby rabbits, but don't touch them. If anyone picks up a bunny, return it to the nest. A little human scent will not prevent the mother from caring for her young.

If it's clear the mother rabbit was killed, contact a wildlife rehabilitator who can best raise the orphaned bunnies. Your veterinarian or local animal shelter can give you names. In most areas, it's illegal for people without a wildlife rehabilitator's license to keep wildlife.

Q: Our family is debating whether it's OK to feed table scraps to our dogs. I say it's fine because that's all dogs ate before commercial dog food was invented.

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