In the spring, you may run across a seemingly abandoned nest of bunnies in the wild. Your heart may prompt you to intervene, but the best thing you can do is LEAVE THEM ALONE. Chances are they have not been abandoned, and by removing them from the wild you greatly reduce their chance for survival. Mothers do not stay in the nest with their babies like some mammals and birds. They build a nest with fur and grasses that help keep the babies warm between feedings. Mothers will stay away from the nest during the day so that predators will not see where her nest is. If you happen to remove a healthy baby from the wild, put him back where you found him. The mother will most likely return to feed the baby. Mother rabbits nurse their babies for approximately 5 minutes a day – once early in the morning and again in the evening. The milk is very rich and the babies fill up within minutes. Then they can usually go 24 hours without another feeding. Often, people find infant rabbits that appear to be too small to be on their own.
The rule-of-thumb is that if the rabbits are 5 inches or longer, they are old enough to be on their own and should be released where they were found. Baby rabbits should be picked up only as a last resort, such as when you know that the parents are dead or injured. Young rabbits are difficult to rehabilitate and more often than not, they do not survive the stress of being handled. Do not attempt to take care of baby rabbits yourself. They require special conditions and diets that only a trained rehabilitator can provide. If you are certain that the mother is no longer able to care for the babies because of severe injury or death, contact a wildlife rehabilitation center. It is possible that they can find a foster mother – a rabbit who is nursing bunnies of the same age – to care for the babies.