Cottontail rabbits are nesting! Mother cottontail scrapes a depression in the ground and lines it with grass and her own fur. To protect this location she stays away all day. She only returns at dawn and dusk for nursing. Young are ready to leave the nest 3-4 weeks after birth.
Cottontails face many obstacles and city bunnies have additional challenges. The biggest problems facing urban-dwelling cottontail babies are: 1. Being run over by a lawn mower. 2. Being caught by cats or dogs. 3. Being found by children.
Tips to help cottontails:
• Always check yard before mowing, tilling, weed trimming, digging in mulch piles or burning brush piles.
• If you find a nest leave it alone. Unattended babies are probably NOT orphaned.
• Keep dogs and cats away.
• If a nest has been disturbed, replace all materials and set the babies back inside. Rabbits will still care for their young, even if touched by humans.
• Injured babies: bring only the injured to your local wildlife rehabilitation center – leave the healthy babies to be raised naturally. Injured mother: bring the entire family to your local wildlife rehabilitation center.
In some states it is unlawful to keep or nurse wildlife if you do not have a wildlife rehabber permit. Check your state Department of Natural Resources for more information.
by Amy Ramnaraine
House Rabbit Society Educator in Training, Minnesota