Based on your previous choices, the baby rabbit needs help. If you have not already done so, the first step is to contain the baby as directed below. Then immediately contact a wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. If you cannot contain the animal, contact a wildlife rehabilitator to ask for further advice.
Do not touch baby rabbits more than necessary
IMPORTANT: As with all wild animals, direct handling of baby rabbits should be kept to a minimum. We are predators to wild animals, and any contact with humans is stressful for them, though their stress may not always be obvious. Baby rabbits are particularly vulnerable to the effects of stress – they easily die from it and can also seriously injure themselves if handled incorrectly. It is additionally important to avoid handling babies in order to keep them wild and to avoid transferring bacteria, fungi, and parasites between humans and wild animals.
How to contain a baby rabbit
Step 1: Find the right container
Get a cardboard box (with air holes) big enough to comfortably contain the baby. Make sure the box has a secure lid, or flaps that close tightly. Line the container with a small towel.
Step 2: Catch the rabbit
Approach the rabbit and drape a towel or pillowcase over the animal’s whole body, including its head. Wear thick garden gloves. Scoop the animal up in the material, placing one hand around its shoulders and using the other to scoop and support its hind end. Place the rabbit inside the box, loosen the material cover and close the box quickly.If the rabbit is too mobile to handle in this way, then place the box upside down overtop of him/her, and slide a flat piece of cardboard underneath. Slowly turn the box over and close the lid.
Step 3: Give the baby rabbit a heat source
Even on warm days, young babies can become hypothermic. The best thing to use is a heating pad set on LOW under half of the box, because it provides a nice consistent source of heat. If you don’t have a heating pad, you can use chemical hand warmers (commercially called “Hot Paws” or similar), microwaveable heat bags or a bottle filled with hot water placed inside the box.
Do not give the baby rabbit food or water
Do not give the baby anything to eat or drink. Instead, contact a rehabilitator. In many cases you will have to leave a message. If you do not receive a call back within several hours (or by the next morning if you call after 6PM), try contacting a different wildlife rehabilitator for advice.
What can go wrong if you feed a baby wild animal
- If the baby is dehydrated, emaciated, or suffering from trauma, it won’t be physically able to digest food. If it tries to do so, it could bloat or go into shock.
- Baby animals can easily inhale food or liquid into their lungs by accident, a situation that can quickly lead to pneumonia and possible death. This is particularly common with baby birds (you should never drop liquid in a gaping baby bird’s mouth), and baby mammals who are at a suckling stage. Even a small amount of liquid in the lungs can lead to infection.
- Foods that are not a normal part of the animal’s diet (like bread or cow’s milk) can cause serious digestive problems.
Speak to an expert before offering any food or water
Many wildlife rehabilitators are too busy to answer their phones directly, but they respond to messages in priority sequence. If you leave a message, most rehabilitators will call you back within a few hours (or by the next morning if you call in the evening). At that time they can help you assess whether the baby is in need of food or water and instruct you on next steps.