Hi Folks! Its the time of year when Heartland gets lots of calls about baby cottontails. "My dog brought them in" "I mowed over a nest" are two of the most common. How about we take this time to let you know a few things about "helping" wild cottontails.
Momma Cottontails do not stay with their babies. That would be like holding up a big sign to predators saying "free lunch over here" . They come one time, at night, normally close to dawn and feed their kids. If you want to know if a cottie is visiting her nest put a little piece of string or something to mark it with. You can also put a finger on their little belly first thing in the morning..If their tummy is round and warm, they are being fed. I can guarantee you mom is watching and knows you are there.
If you mow over a nest and there are no injuries: cover the nest back up and leave them alone. That is the absolute best way to help the babies.
If you find an injured baby or babies: Handle them with care. Place them in a secure box or pet carrier and keep them in a dark, quiet place until you can get professional help. All states have a wildlife rehab of some sort. They are the people that can best take care of the wildlife. They have the knowledge, staff, experience and facilities to deal with them. In Oklahoma you can contact http://www.wildcareoklahoma.org/
, they rehab and release hundreds of cottontails and other native wildlife every year. Dont
allow your children to handle them and keep them away from household pets. A little fresh water and grass might be appreciated until you can get them to a refuge but a little baby gets all they need from their mom. (please no lettuce or other domestic bunny treats for cottontail babies)
Cottontails are cute, that is for sure but they are not like domestic rabbits. They dont want to snuggle with us, live in our homes and be our pets. Their wild instincts cry out and often times our idea of "help" does more harm than good. They want to be admired from a safe distance if you please.
Wanting to help wildlife is a good thing for sure. The best thing we can do to help all wildlife is leave them alone unless they are injured or truly abandoned. Treating or raising a wild animal requires a lot of time and a huge amount of knowledge about the particular species you are dealing with. Most of us are just not equipped to do that.
Thank you for wanting to help our wild neighbors.