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, and she spends very little time at the nest so as not to attract predators.
What to do if you find a rabbit nest in a dangerous area
Although rabbits sometimes nest in dangerous areas, they should be left alone to finish their nesting process. Baby rabbits only remain in the nest for about three weeks. After this time the babies leave the nest and are no longer in need of their mother’s care.
Mother rabbits find their babies by location, so moving the babies or nest in any way will likely cause them to become orphaned. Keep in mind that residential and suburban environments are actually very suitable rabbit habitats, and what we may see as more “natural” areas are not necessarily better for the rabbits.
How to help keep rabbit nests safe
There are steps you can take to reduce some of the dangers rabbits face from living near people:
Limit or eliminate lawn mowing in areas where there may be baby rabbits
If there are particular areas of your backyard where you know rabbits tend to nest, consider letting the grass grow longer in that area. This will provide the rabbits with a safe sheltered area to have their babies, and you can keep the grass shorter in other areas of the lawn for your own use.
Keep pets indoors or on a leash
Free-roaming pets—cats in particular—are a major problem for rabbits and other wildlife, especially during the spring and summer when there are many wild babies spending time on the ground. Although it may seem natural for cats to kill wildlife, these domestic pets are not part of our wild ecosystems and their predation causes major damage to wildlife. Toronto Wildlife Centre strongly recommends pets be kept indoors, or allowed outdoors only on leash or in an outdoor enclosure. This will help to keep both pets and wildlife safe.
For more information on the impacts of outdoor cats, and tips on converting outdoor cats to indoor cats, please visit www.keepanimalssafe.ca. If the cats in question do not belong to you, consider talking to your neighbours about keeping their cats inside.