If you have inadvertently disturbed a rabbit nest with a mower or otherwise and there are no predators (including dogs and cats) loose in the area, rescue injured babies but replace the cap of grass and litter over the nest and leave the babies there. Check the nest again the next morning.
If a cat or dog is bringing nestling rabbits home, they will repeatedly raid this nest until all the babies are killed. In this situation, finding the nest and repairing it is optimal, and restraining the predator is necessary. If the predator cannot be prevented from returning to a nest you have located, rescue the nestlings.
Eyes closed or up to 5 inches:
If the nest site is known (a shallow depression usually lined with fur), return it to the nest, disturbing as little as possible. The mother will visit the nest within 12 hours. Mothers do not reclaim babies that are not in the nest.
5 inches or larger:
People (especially children) will catch a young (3-4 week old) rabbit that seems too small to be on its own. Rabbits leave the nest and become self-sufficient at a very young age. Rabbits rarely survive captivity, and if uninjured, should be released immediately.
Much shock is avoided/prevented if some of these measures can be followed:
Use a small box such as a shoebox if possible. Make sure the lid is on tight (cottontails have been known to jump straight up and knock the lid right off) and has air holes in it (put in before the rabbit is put in it, of course!)
Line the box with a soft clean cloth and cover the rabbit with another soft cloth.
Avoid the use of newspaper (the soy ink can be an irritant) as it is not an absorbent material and feels cold to the touch. Warmth is the key!
If the nest is available, put some or all of the nesting material in the box. This will give the kits a point of reference and provide a calming effect. Make sure there are no ants clinging to the material!
Transport as soon as possible. In many cases, the longer the time to get to a rehabilitator, the less chance the rabbit has and the greater the possibility of shock.
Some of this information obtained from the manual posted by Elaine Peterson Long 1998.
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