What’s normal for baby rabbits
Eastern Cottontails frequently nest in urban and suburban areas, and their nests are typically shallow holes in the ground (and sometimes in planter boxes or wood chips). The mother rabbit covers her babies with grass and fur pulled from her body. She spends very little time at the nest so she doesn’t attract predators, but nests are still sometimes found and disturbed by people or other animals.
What to do when a dog disturbs a rabbit nest
If the nest has been found or dug up by a dog and none of the babies seem sick or injured, try to recreate the nest. Handle the babies as little as possible, and wear garden gloves that have been rubbed in grass to get rid of your scent. Place the babies back in the recreated nest. To find out if the mother is returning to feed them, do this simple string test.
It is important to keep the dog away from the nest site from this point on. Having found the nest once, it will keep returning to the area, potentially harming the babies or frightening away the mother. Don’t worry! Baby rabbits grow up and are independent in just a few weeks, so you won’t have to keep your pet away from the area for long.
If there are any injured babies, they will need medical attention—in which case you should contact a wildlife rehabilitator. The rest of the healthy babies can be replaced in the nest to give the mother rabbit the chance to continue to care for them.
What to do when a cat disturbs a rabbit nest
If any of the baby rabbits are suspected of having contact with a cat (either in a cat’s mouth, touched by a cat’s paw, or brought inside by a cat), they need medical attention—contact a wildlife rehabilitator right away [links to ‘getting help’]. Even a minor injury from a cat can cause an infection that can kill a baby in a short period of time. If there are babies that have not been touched by the cat, leave them in the nest and do this string test to find out if their mother returns to feed them.
It is important to keep the cat away from the nest site from this point on. Having found the nest it will likely keep returning to the area, potentially harming the other babies or frightening away the mother. For more information on how to keep cats happy indoors, check out www.keepanimalssafe.ca.
What to do when a rabbit nest is destroyed by a lawnmower
If a nest has been run over by a lawnmower, search the area for babies – they often leap out of the nest when the mower goes near or over it. If they do not appear injured, replace the babies in their nest. Handle the babies as little as possible, and wear garden gloves that have been rubbed in grass to get rid of your scent.
Use the nest covering—dried grass and bits of rabbit fur—to cover the babies. If you don’t see the original covering material, use dried grasses from the area to cover them. Do this string test to find out if the mother returns to feed the babies.
If the babies have been injured or you cannot find the nest site, contact a wildlife rehabilitator to find help for the babies.