In the San Antonio area, the native species of rabbit is the Eastern Cottontail. They can breed at any time of the year. If you are mowing a yard or grassy field, please walk the entire area before mowing or working to make sure you do not injure a nest of cottontail babies hidden in the grass. If you have found an injured or orphaned baby cottontail rabbit, please contact the 24-Hour Emergency Hotline for Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation in Kendalia, Texas, at (830) 336-2725.
Read This First Before Picking Up a Baby Cottontail
It is very unlikely that the nest of baby rabbits you have found is truly abandoned. Mother rabbits only nurse their babies for approximately 5 minutes twice a day. The mother returns to the nest once or twice a day in the evening or at night so as not to bring attention to the nest and attract predators.Rabbits will still care for their babies even if they have been touched by human hands.
If you find a nest that has been destroyed, you can move it or rebuild in a safer area within 10 feet of its original location. Gather dried grasses and scoop out a similar shallow depression in the earth. Make an "X" over the nest with string so that you can see if the string is moved, indicating the mother is returning.
If you know for certain that the mother has been killed or the babies are in need of urgent help, contact a wildlife rehabilitator immediately.
Baby rabbits are very cute and it is natural to want to handle them. However, they are very easily stressed by handling and noise. Any undue stress can cause them to have heart failure. They are wild animals. Individuals raising orphaned babies must not treat them as pets.
There is a 90% mortality rate with orphaned baby rabbits in human care.
Most baby cottontails end up in human care for all the wrong reasons even though the heart of the rescuer was surely in the right spot and their intentions honorable and motives kind. If you come across a nest of bunnies in the wild and the mother is nowhere in sight, please DO NOT disturb them! By removing them from the nest you are greatly reducing their chances of survival.
You can check to see if the mother rabbit is coming back to the nest by making an "X" over the nest with strands of yarn, dental floss or other thin string. If the string has been pushed back out of the way in the morning, then you know that the mother has returned to her babies. Other indicators that the mother has fed her babies are if they are quiet and sleeping soundly and/or if their tummies are rounded.
There is a 90% mortality rate with orphaned baby rabbits in human care, especially cottontails. This number increases if the rabbits are very young and their eyes still closed. They are extremely hard to "save." There is little substitute for the nutrients their mother's milk provides. Often, they die of bloat, improper feeding or overfeeding. Many die even when people have done everything "right."
My Dog or Cat Caught a Baby Rabbit!
If the rabbit is injured call a wildlife rehabilitator immediately. If the rabbit is uninjured, try to locate the nest and return the baby to its siblings. Block the area with a barrier to prevent the dog from getting to the babies again. Bring your cat inside (cats roaming outside are one of the greatest causes of wildlife deaths worldwide). Please note that injuries, especially with cat bites, are serious and may not be apparent on the outside.
If you see a cottontail with its eyes open wandering around, leave it alone. It is exploring outside the nest and learning to forage for food. The nest is nearby and the baby will be able to find it. Do not touch the rabbit and keep pets and children away. A juvenile cottontail is at least four weeks of age (about the size of a tennis ball) and no longer requires the nurturing of its mother or the protection of the nest.