Message from the editor: We came across this helpful article and pictures by Kimberly Parker, former wildlife rehabber for the Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition. She graciously agreed to let us share her images and message. We hope this sound advice will save baby rabbit lives. Removing baby rabbits from their nests, or unknowingly mowing over their nest can have fatal consequences!
If a rabbit is injured, has been attacked by a dog or cat, or has ants on it, then please bring it to the nearest wildlife centre for treatment. Otherwise, leave that bunny alone!
It is a MYTH that if you touch baby wildlife of any kind that the mother will no longer care for the babies. This is NOT true! Of course, don’t needlessly handle babies, but if you do pick up a rabbit, squirrel, bird etc to move it to safety or check for distress, the mother WILL still care for it after being touched.
PLEASE NOTE: As per MNRF regulations, Procyon Wildlife volunteers handle all wildlife wearing gloves. The images displayed show ungloved hands, and were taken several years ago and are courtesy of Kimberly Parker and are not Procyon Wildlife images.
Rabbit #1 : There is a distinct lighter colour under the skin. This is the milk line- milk in the babies stomach. The mother has recently fed this baby and is being cared for by the mother. It’s skin isn’t wrinkly and is not showing signs of dehydration. Leave this baby in the nest!
Rabbit #2 : This little one is very skinny – wrinkled skin which indicates dehydration. In the second photo of baby #2, you can see no milk line, his stomach is sunken in and ribs are visible when he is stretched out. This baby needs human intervention.
Rabbit #3 : For size reference, this rabbit is still feeding on its mother’s milk. If you find a rabbit like this, determine if it needs help or not by referring to rabbits #1 and #2. Rabbits at this age are in their “awkward” growth stage. Their heads look like they are too big for their bodies. The baby pictured here is healthy and the mother was doing her job.
Rabbit #4 : Fully weaned and no longer needing its mother. If a rabbit can ACTIVELY run away from you – meaning you have to run after it to catch it or it’s difficult to catch – then it does NOT need you. They look small but are self sufficient at about 120g. Catching this rabbit can result in its death due to stress.
Picture #5 : If you can’t tell if the rabbits need help or not, place string or sticks over the nest in a tic tack toe pattern or place a ring of flour around the nest. Wait 24 hours, if the mother returns the string/sticks/flour will be disturbed. If the nest has not been disturbed then assess the babies. Is there a milk line? Wrinkly? Sunken in stomach? If the babies look distressed or there are dead siblings then you have reasonable cause to bring the babies to a wildlife centre.
Picture #6 : There are alot of questions about the milk line. Here is a before and after of a feeding of the same rabbit.
Left photo has no milk line, this is before his feeding. The stomach region is ‘dark’. No light color under the skin.
Right picture is after the feeding. Stomach region is light under the skin. That is the milk in his stomach. It will be hard to see if the rabbit has more fur.
Note; Just because a baby doesn’t have a milk line, that does NOT mean the mom isn’t around. Wait 24 hours or overnight before intervening. The mother only comes to feed twice a day. If it’s towards the end of the day, or beginning, the mother may not have come to feed her babies yet.
Wait a little while before removing the babies if they aren’t injured or look like they are in distress.
If unsure call Procyon Wildlife at 905-729-0033 so we can determine the best course of action.
We hope this helps others determine if the bunnies in your yard need your help or not. They will only stay in the nest for 2-3 weeks. If you have a dog, let them out in the front yard or fence off the area that the rabbits are in. Allow for space for the mother to go in and out.
If you are unsure, call your local wildlife centre! They would be happy to give you guidance and assess your particular situation! Please respect the wildlife and do what you can to help the babies get their best shot at life ❤️
Please refer to this link to find the closest wildlife centre to you! https://learningcompass.learnflex.net/Upload/Public/WildlifeRehabilitatorsPublicList.htm