Many people make the mistake of believing that they have found orphaned or abandoned baby rabbits but this is usually not the case.
Mother rabbits usually build their nests in an open location and often leave their baby rabbits to forage for food during the day.
The fur and grass that the mother uses to create the nest help to keep the baby rabbits warm so that their mother does not have to stay with them.
Most people are unaware of this fact so they assume that baby rabbits that are found without a mother in sight must be orphaned or abandoned.
Unfortunately, it is also this mistake that leads to the demise of many baby rabbits. The natural way that the mothers care for their babies is incredibly efficient and even the most skilled wildlife experts often have difficulty helping baby rabbits to survive. The baby rabbit’s best chance for survival is to stay with their mother.
What should you do if you do find baby rabbits that you believe have been abandoned or orphaned? Looking around for the mother is not sufficient to determine that the baby rabbits have been abandoned or orphaned.
Even if the mother is nearby she will remain out of sight until you leave so there is very little chance that you will ever find the mother. One way to determine whether or not the baby rabbits have been abandoned is to feel them.
Baby rabbits that are warm with full bellies are most likely being cared for by their mother and are not in need of assistance. Taking them from their nest can be very harmful to them because they have little chance of survival if raised by humans. Also, if the baby rabbits appear to be active, they are probably being cared for by their mother.
Another way to tell if the baby rabbits are being cared for is to place two sticks across the top of the nest and then leave for a few hours. If the sticks are disturbed when you return, this is a sign that the mother has visited the nest while you were gone.
Baby rabbits that are truly abandoned or orphaned may be cold, blue, dehydrated or have empty bellies. Also, if the baby rabbits cry incessantly, then they are probably not being fed as baby rabbits are usually quite for most of the day. If you find baby rabbits in this state, then you should call a wildlife rehabilitator and report your findings.
Sometimes humans find a nest of baby rabbits accidentally. If this occurs, it is important to try to disturb the nest as little as possible.
Even if the mother is not in sight if the baby rabbits appear healthy and as if they are being cared for, then the mother will likely return to continue to care for the babies. If you accidentally encounter a nest filled with baby rabbits and disturb the nest, you should try to return the nest to its original state.
Unlike birds, the mother will not reject the baby if it has your scent. If you notice a baby rabbit outside of the nest, it is acceptable to return the baby to the nest so that it will stay warm.
Also, if the grass or fur was disturbed it can be replaced so that the baby rabbits have a warm and comfortable environment in which to rest.
Baby rabbits that appear to be healthy and well fed should not be removed from their nests. If the mother returns and does not find the babies, she will be frantic and will continue to return to that spot daily in search of her babies. The baby rabbits should also not be removed because they thrive on their mother’s milk and feeding them a substitute may not be sufficient.