Wild Bunnies & You

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A baby cottontail rabbit. (Photo contributed by Volunteers for Wildlife)

Springtime is finally here. The days are longer, the weather is warmer and you can start enjoying time outdoors. However, before you bust out your garden spades and lawn mowers to get hopping on some spring cleaning, have you checked your backyard for nests? While it is very important to check the trees and shrubs in your yard for active bird nests before you do any pruning, you should also look out for another type of wild animal habitat in the grass around your property: Eastern Cottontail rabbit nests.

Rabbits nest in shallow depressions in the ground.  These nests are sometimes made right in the middle of a lawn or garden and can look like patches of dead grass. Up to eight baby bunnies, called kits, will live in the nest.  Their mother won’t stay with the babies, but instead will visit only twice daily for just a few minutes to feed them. While it may seem like a strange parenting strategy, this hands-off method helps to keep the babies concealed from predators. In about three weeks, the kits are independent enough to venture out on their own.

Most people don’t discover a rabbit nest in their yard until it is too late.  Nests are frequently disturbed by lawnmowers, and unsupervised pets.  As a result, our Wildlife Hospital admits more than 200 injured or orphaned Eastern Cottontail kits into care each year. One of the best things you can do to protect rabbit families living in your yard is to check your yard thoroughly for rabbit nests before mowing. Supervising dogs outside and keeping cats indoors will also help to keep bunnies safe. If you find a bunny nest and are concerned about their well-being, please call the Wildlife Hotline at 516-674-0982. The rehabilitators will walk you through the best way to keep the babies safe.

Volunteers for Wildlife’s Rehabilitation Hospital & Education Center (V4W) is located at Bailey Arboretum in Locust Valley. Approximately 2,300 injured and orphaned animals are treated every year at the hospital. Countless more are triaged through the Hotline, which receives more than 10,000 calls. V4W also offers educational programs to schools, scouts, libraries, community organizations and private parties.

Visit www.volunteersforwildlife.org to learn more about their services and educational programs such as their new Guided Meet & Greets in the lovely Wildlife Garden.

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