Spring is a lovely season of rebirth and regeneration. There are Easter celebrations, the cold weather gives way to warmth, and the world bursts into life in the form of new greenery and baby animals.
Most people find the various baby critters adorable, but few know how to handle interactions with them. In general, the key to interacting with wild baby animals is: Don’t.
Rescues get inundated with animals this time of year. Not only is it kitten season, but well-meaning people find “abandoned” baby birds and bunnies and turn them in.
In an effort to ward off these well-meant but ill-fated attempts, many rehab and wildlife groups have been urging people to be very careful before bringing in baby bunnies that seem abandoned — because in most cases, they’re not.
“IT’S BUNNY SEASON!! REMINDER AS SPRING APPROACHES,” Barb J Melton shared on Facebook on March 16. “Bunnies are one of the most frequently ‘kidnapped’ mammal species.”
“Mothers dig a very shallow nest in the ground that is easily uncovered when mowing or raking the yard. If you find a rabbit nest — leave it alone!! Mother rabbits only return to the nest two or three times a day, usually before dawn and right after dusk.”
There are occasional cases, of course, of actual abandonment, but to help people identify these, there’s an easy trick.
“To determine if they are orphaned, either place a string across the nest in a tic-tac-toe shape or circle the nest with flour. Check the nest the next day. If the string or flour is disturbed, the mother has returned. If not, take the bunnies to a rehabilitator.”
“A bunny that is bright eyed and 4-5 inches long is fully independent and does NOT need to be rescued! If you find a bunny that does need to be rescued, put it in a dark, quiet location. Bunnies are a prey species and while they may look calm, they are actually very, very scared!”
Many people who’ve tried to help out abandoned kits have lost them to heart failure as the babies are so terrified that any extra handling, movement, or loud noises can give them heart attacks.
“We’ve been getting LOTS of calls about wild baby bunnies lately,” the Animal Rescue League of Iowa confirmed in their own post. They urged people to leave the nests alone as well, and use the tic-tac-toe yarn method if necessary to ensure they’re not truly abandoned.
“THINGS TO REMEMBER: If you have found an orphaned or injured baby rabbit and must touch it before help arrives, be sure to wear gloves,” they added. “Place it in a secure, ventilated container and keep it in a warm, dark, quiet place until an animal control officer or wildlife rehabilitator can assist.”
“Also, do not feed the baby rabbit. Giving it the wrong foods (like milk or lettuce) can kill it. Wait for experienced help to come.”
While rescue is sometimes truly needed, hopefully you will be able to appreciate wild creatures from a distance this spring, watching them learn about their world safely and without unnecessary intervention.
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