Wildlife: Rabbits

Are you experiencing an issue with wildlife in your area?  If you have an urgent concern, please get in touch with us right away.  If you are looking for more information, please click on one of the questions below to expand the content and find your answer.  If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at DFW Wildlife Coalition.

  • If the animal has been hit by a car, attacked by a cat or dog, and, an adult can safely do so, a helping hand is appreciated.
  • Your personal safety is first and foremost.  Gloves are recommended. If you do not have gloves use fabric such as a towel, T-shirt, or whatever fabric you may have on hand.  Cover the injured animal as this will reduce stress and assist in protecting yourself.  
  • When a mammal is covered, depending on the species, they may still move or struggle, however it will be reduced as compared to not covering the animal as you are reducing the fear of the animal by blocking their vision.  
  • Never pick an animal up by the tail.
  • If the animal is an adult rabies vector, raccoon, fox, coyote or skunk please contact authorities for assistance.
  • An injured animal will try to defend itself.  Do not pick the animal up unless you can safely do so.  If you are bitten or scratched, and the animal is a rabies vector it will have to be tested for rabies.  So, do not risk yourself as you are also jeopardizing the animal’s life.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Remember if you cannot contain safely, contact authorities for assistance or call the hotline at, 972-234-9453.
  • Read FAQ: How to contain and prepare wildlife for transport
  • Read FAQ: Ways to provide heat for orphan or injured wild animal
  • Read FAQ: How to locate a wildlife rehabilitator

Thank you for being a caring person and for taking the time to save wildlife! Once you have identified an animal in need of care, it will be necessary to contain the animal so that it can be safely transported to a permitted animal rehabilitator. Only adults should handle wildlife, provided it can be done safely.

Steps in the Transport Process:

  1. Choose an appropriate container for transport.
    Containers need to be chosen based on the wildlife being rescued/transported. For tiny to small animals, a shoe box with a few extra air holes poked from the inside out works well. For medium to older babies, use a small to medium pet carrier or larger box. If using a pet carrier, cover the carrier to make the inside dark.  For adult animals, be sure the container has a lid and that the animal cannot chew through or get out of the container. Remember darkness helps the animal to relax. Never transport with an open container!
  2. Prepare your container
    Provide soft bedding. An old T-shirt or similar fabric is ideal. Avoid fabrics with large loops or an extremely open weave. Towels, terry cloth, and similar fabrics have threads that can get wrapped around little toes and ankles and cut off circulation.
  3. Placing animals in the container
    For baby animals, use an old T-shirt or wear gloves to gently pick up and place the baby wildlife in the container.  Older wildlife will definitely require gloves and the T-shirt or a towel In order to have adequate fabric between you and the terrified animal.  The towel serves two purposes: aids in protecting your hands and covers the little animal’s eyes to make it less afraid as you pick up and place in the container.
  4. Provide heat source.  Read FAQ “Ways to provide heat for orphaned or injured wild animal”.
  5. Reach out to a professional.
    Contact DFW Wildlife Coalition hotline 972-234-9453 or a permitted wildlife rehabilitator for instructions and information on when and where to transport. The hotline is staffed by volunteers and rehabilitators might be caring for animals when you call. It may take an hour or so for a return phone call. Until then, keep the container in a quite dark place away from family pets and children.
  6. Be prepared to transport as soon as possible.
    If you are personally unavailable, check with friends, family, or neighbors.  Often there is someone willing to participate in the rescue. If you still are having difficulty check with your HOA, neighborhood app or Facebook.  Uber is an option as well.
  7. During the transport process:
    ** Please refrain from using the radio while driving. The little life you are transporting is very afraid and the radio will only add to its stress.
    ** Please do not transport in the bed of a pickup truck! Wind, road noise, and extreme temperatures could further compromise the animal.
  8. Meeting the Rehabber:
    When meeting the rehabilitation professional and handing off the animal, please remember to give details of the rescue to the rehabber.
    ** A donation towards the care of the animal would also be deeply appreciated by the rehabber. Rehabilitators do not receive assistance from city or state agencies.

Thank you for being a caring person and for taking the time to save wildlife!

Saving a life begins with making sure an orphaned or injured animal has heat. Begin by providing soft bedding for the animal you are rescuing. An old T-shirt or similar fabric is ideal. Avoid fabrics with large loops or an extremely open weave. Towels, terry cloth, and similar fabrics have threads that can get wrapped around little toes and ankles and cut off circulation.

Once you have provided bedding, the next step is to supply warmth. Holding or placing an animal in your pocket is not an adequate or safe way to keep the baby warm.  It is also terrifying for the animal. Remember, to the animal you are rescuing, you are a predator!

Warming techniques:

  • Place 1 cup of uncooked rice in a sock and tie or rubber band the open end. Place in the microwave for 1 minute. If not warm, heat another 30-60 seconds until the sock is warm but NOT HOT. If you don’t have rice, try lentils or similar product.
  • Put hot water in a bottle and place the bottle in a sock. This is a good solution if you are traveling or at the office.
  • If it will be several hours until you can transport the animal to a rehabilitator, use a heating pad set on low.  It is very important to place heating pad under one half of the container only so that the animal can choose the side of the container it prefers.  When checking on the baby, it should be warm but not sweaty or hot.
    • CAUTION: Newer heating pads have automatic shut offs that you may need to monitor if you are keeping the animal overnight.  

The rice sock or hot water bottle will travel with the animal as you are transporting to a wildlife rehabilitator.  Each can be reheated as needed and normally they will each hold the temperature long enough to transport the animal to safety.

There are several options for you as you begin your search for professional help for an animal in need. Remember, the wild animal you have rescued should be respected as such. Please keep children and pets away from wild animals

 

  • DFW Wildlife Coalition telephone hotline 972-234-WILD or 972-234-9453
    Hours of operation are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., 365 days per year.  Our 100{376de46712742e812dd3d98559fb34c156542d2d9d295b06b04bc04c2527f5a7} volunteer operated hotline will assist in finding a wildlife rehabilitator that specializes in the wildlife or type of injury, orphaned, and or conflict or concern you may have.  
  • Animal Help Now (www.ahnow.org)
    If you have called the DFW Wildlife Coalition and it is after hours, you cannot reach a volunteer, or you live outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas and surrounding counties, you may find a wildlife rehabilitator at Animal Help Now website (www.ahnow.org).  Animal Help Now is a national database of wildlife or veterinarian professionals.

 

You may download Animal Help Now, free application for either iPhone or Android called “Animal Help Now”.  This app will work on GPS lists wildlife rehabilitators or veterinarians based on hours of operation.  You may need to search in surrounding cities or counties. If you are searching late at night, you may want to check again in the morning in the event there are other options.  

If you cannot locate a rehabilitator or transport the animal immediately, provide heat all night and do not attempt to feed.  Most animals will not eat when in pain and you can do more harm than good by force feeding or providing food. Please refrain from handling needlessly. Remember, you are a predator and may be causing undo stress and fear.  Prey species can die from stress.  

As tempting as it might be to keep the animal and attempt to care for it yourself, please remember that it is illegal to keep a wild animal. Delay in transporting may be the difference in life or death and the animals best chance at survival rests with being placed with a permitted professional.  If you delay, you might compromise the recovery of the animal you have rescued.

 

ONCE YOU HAVE LOCATED A REHABILITATION PROFESSIONAL

  • Be prepared to transport as quickly as possible once you have located a rehabilitation professional.  If you know that you cannot do so, please reach out to neighbors, family and friends for help in transporting the life you have rescued. Wildlife rehabilitators have their hands full providing feedings, medical attention, and husbandry to the animals in their care; they typically do not have the time or volunteers to pick up wildlife.  If you still cannot locate transportation, please reach out to friends in your HOA, neighborhood app, or Facebook. Uber might also be an option for transport.
  • Once you have placed your animal with the rehabber and provided information about its history with you, please donate to the wildlife rehabilitator as they do not receive assistance from city or state agencies.

Thank you for being a caring person and for taking the time to save wildlife!


A cottontail nest is typically a depression in the ground lined with fur. While it might seem that the nest you have found is abandoned,
mother cottontail is almost certainly in the area. Cottontails are prey, and mothers do not stay with their young to avoid drawing predators to the nest.

Any babies that you see in the nest will most likely be covered with grasses and twigs. PLEASE RE-COVER THE NEST AND LEAVE ALONE if:

  • The nest is intact
  • The babies look content and appear plump (shaped like a pear and not lean)
  • Are warm to the touch
  • Are snuggled next to each other sleeping
  • There does not seem to be any danger

To determine if the mother is taking care of the babies, simply place a string, yarn, or dental floss in the shape of an X over the nest. Wait 12 hours; if the X has been disturbed, the mother has fed the babies. You may quickly peek and if the babies are content and sleeping, all is well. Gently recover the babies.

It is a myth that mother cottontails will not accept her babies if you have touched them. She has invested time in her young and will care for them after your intervention. When monitoring a nest to determine if a mother is present, keep in mind that rabbits feed at dawn and dusk. When feeding, the mother rabbit will straddle the nest and the babies will eat 5-7% of their body weight.

Keep all pets and children away from the cottontail nest. If dogs must go outside unleashed in the area in which a cottontail nest is present, depending on the breed of dog, a simple remedy is to turn a laundry basket upside down over the nest  If necessary, a small brick may hold the basket in place; however, be sure to remove the laundry basket at dusk and leave it off until well after daybreak to allow the mother the opportunity to feed her babies. For a larger breed dog, position a wheelbarrow upside down to protect the nest, however be sure to position where the mother can slip under.  Or remove from dusk to dawn to allow feeding. If the laundry basket or wheelbarrow won’t work with your dog, please keep your dog inside and on a leash when they need to potty.

Cottontails open their eyes at around ten days old and become independent at approximately 3-4 weeks of age. Once they reach the size of a tennis ball or softball they are ready to be on their own. You may notice that newly independent cottontails will freeze in place. This is a defense mechanism; however, if your yard does not provide enough shelter and hiding spaces, this is a good time for you to collect and relocate the young cottontails to a safe location in your neighborhood, such as a local greenbelt that has plenty of undergrowth in which they can hide.


This video by one of our local cottontail experts, Diana Leggett, Founder/President of WildRescue, illustrates that these babies are almost ready to leave the nest in about a week.

 

It is possible that the baby cottontails you have found need human assistance. Provide assistance if:

  • The cottontails are restless and searching, appear thin like a candy bar, and are cold to the touch
  • The nest has been disturbed
  • You know the mother is dead
  • The nest is flooding
  • There are fire ants or flies in the nest
  • A cottontail is injured
  • Your dog or cat brought the baby cottontail to you

When rescuing a cottontail, read the following FAQs.

Once the baby cottontails emerge from the nest at 3-4 weeks of age, you may see them in your yard. Cottontails may freeze and blend with their surroundings. Their instincts may be telling them they cannot outrun the present danger/predator. A juvenile cottontail will be the size of an average fist or a tennis ball.
If you find a baby cottontail that has “frozen” in place and are unsure if it is okay,
  • Place it in a small box with a white paper towel in the bottom. Place dandelion or other grass clippings from your yard in the box.  DO NOT PUT CHEMICALLY TREATED PLANT MATERIAL IN THE BOX.  Provide a small bottle cap of water and keep the bunny overnight.
If in the morning the vegetation has been eaten and the rabbit has defecated small pellets, the cottontail is okay and should be released in your neighborhood in an area with plenty of brush and ground cover for camouflage.
If the cottontail did not eat or defecate overnight, the rabbit is not old enough to be on its own and should be taken to a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.
  • Please read FAQ: How to contain, prepare, and transport wildlife
  • FAQ: Ways to provide heat for orphan or injured wild animal
  • FAQ: How to locate a wildlife rehabilitator
  • OR call the hotline 972-234-9453 for a referral and instructions.
Several times a year we get calls with a cottontail nest at the base of a children’s slide at a day care center or other similar perilous location.
You cannot relocate a cottontail nest. The mother will not look for her nest that has been moved. Since mother only feeds at dusk and dawn when the school or daycare is closed both parties can share the space with a little help from you.
If you find a nest in an inconvenient location,
  • Gently place the nest with babies in a box and store in a quite dark place during your business hours.
  • Return nest with babies to the exact location prior to your departure or at dusk. Mother cottontail will visit the nest at dusk and dawn to feed her litter.
  • Never play show and tell with the babies, as they can die from fear.
By caring for the litter in this manner, you are saving lives! Cottontail babies are very difficult to rehab. Babies that are newborn, without fur on their tummies, have a higher risk of death in rehab. It is best for babies to be raised by their natural mother.
If you are unsure if the mother is feeding the babies, you can verify by simply placing a string, yarn, or dental floss in the shape of an X over the nest each night. In the morning, look to see that the X has been disturbed and the babies are content and sleeping, all is well. Gently cover and place nest in the box for the day. Repeat until the rabbits are the size of a tennis ball or softball. If at that time you believe the little rabbits are at risk, relocate them to a brush or ground cover area.