By Donna DuBreuil, President,
Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre – www.wildlifeinfo.ca
We remember well the animals we cared for when doing wildlife rehabilitation, particularly the ones that had a run in with one of our human contraptions and lived to tell the ‘tale’.
In this case it was an ‘ear’. The three little Eastern Cottontail rabbits that arrived at the Centre were very traumatized as was the homeowner who brought them to us. Unknown to him, the baby rabbits had been in a nest in tall grass at the back of his property. In cutting the grass with a whipper snipper, he was shocked to hear a piercing cry. Realizing they were injured, he quickly gathered up the babies and nesting material and brought them to the Centre.
One of the rabbits had lost most of its ear and was bleeding profusely, another had a deep cut on its neck and the third had abrasions on its back. Fortunately, after stabilizing them, all three responded to treatment. The veterinarian was able to suture the remaining portion of the one rabbit’s ear and stem the bleeding while the other rabbits’ cuts were cleaned and closed.
We wondered whether a rabbit with one ear would be at greater risk in terms of not hearing a predator approach but that concern was soon put to rest. Once the group were housed in a large cage, they all adopted the wariness that rabbits possess. In fact, it seemed to us that the one-eared rabbit was the sentry, keeping a watch over the others.
When they were old enough, they were released back at the original site, at the homeowner’s request.
Because rabbits, like many wild animals, seek safe spots close to our homes and away from predators when their babies are most vulnerable, it is not at all uncommon to have them around our property. They build their nests by digging a shallow indentation in a garden, under a hedge or in tall grass. The female lines the burrow with her fur for insulation for the newborn babies and covers the area with grass or other vegetation.
As the female only visits a few times a day, mostly at night, to nurse the babies so as to not attract predators to the nest, there is little indication of activity.
So, when digging in your garden or mowing your lawn, please keep an eye out for a possible nest. If you find one with babies, replace the nesting materials if you have disturbed them and leave it alone. Keep dogs and cats away for the short period of time it takes for the babies to mature and leave the area.