October was a bad month for homeless bunnies. We turned away 80 rabbits because our foster homes were full. But a call from a Park Ranger in the Sandia Mountains tugged at our hearts. With winter coming on, someone had dumped 20 domestic baby rabbits in the wilderness. Instructed by his superiors to shoot the rabbits, the ranger couldn’t bring himself to do it. He feared that the cougars, bobcats, and coyotes would make short work of the bunnies. Could we help?
HRS New Mexico is blessed with big-hearted and adventurous people who turned out on less than 24-hours notice to start a bunny roundup in the foothills. Using a small version of the canyon chutes used to round up cattle, made of 2 x 4’s and chicken wire, thirteen people scoured the hillside. Teamwork paid off, with some herding bunnies from a distance and others arriving with pens to surround rocks, trees, or wherever the bunnies were hiding. The team closed down the pens smaller and smaller until each rabbit could be safely lifted out and into a waiting cage. The ranger had speculated there might be ten rabbits still alive. Sadly, after a week in the wild, only four remained. Rescuers found four bunnies killed and hidden by predators. And to her utter horror, rescuer Amy Marti witnessed what the person who abandoned the baby rabbits didn’t see. A bobcat jumped out within thirty feet of her and snatched a baby rabbit away.
Volunteers worked swiftly to finish before dark and endured rough terrain to corral the bunnies. The rabbits were terrified, thin, and afflicted with fleas. The four bunnies brought out alive were all under six months. Two had obviously escaped attack and had suffered gashes and punctured ears. All appeared grateful for food and warm beds.
If only all abandonment cases could end this well. Our special thanks to our volunteers who gave up their plans to spend a day herding bunnies and dodging predators. They are a stalwart crew who refused to let dangerous animals, cactus, or that darned chicken wire stop them! *
Across the country, HRS members are helping unwanted domestic rabbits. Volunteers in different areas face different problems. In Peralta, near Albuquerque, New Mexico, overcrowding of animal shelters is not a problem, because unwanted rabbits don’t get that far. Instead, people dispose of them by turning them loose. Most die. Rescuing the survivors is physically and emotionally difficult.
A network of New Mexican volunteers places a priority on meeting both medical and social needs of their rescued rabbits. Fosterers must commit to spending quality time with each foster. This limits the number of rabbits they can rescue, but promotes adoptability. Rabbits who are unadoptable due to health problems are given the same quality care, and maintained for life.
House Rabbit Journal Volume III, Number 7, Spring 1996