If you come across a nest of bunnies in the wild and the mother is nowhere to be seen, please DO NOT disturb them. This is normal since the mother only returns to the babies to feed them at dawn and dusk, otherwise they are alone. By removing them from the nest you are greatly reducing their chances of survival.
Rabbits are independent animals, not orphans, if they are:
- More than four inches long
- Have full fur, open eyes, and erect ears (size of tennis ball when crouching)
Rabbit nests are usually found in a shallow, fur lined depression in the grass. If you come upon furless young who are out of the nest, return them to the nest. Reform the nest if it has been destroyed, cover the young rabbits with loose grass, and then mark the nest with an X using sticks or natural colored twine or sprinkle flour around the nest area.
Female rabbits only feed their babies at dawn and dusk, so you are unlikely to see the mother return. If she returns, she will move the marker when she enters the nest. If the marker remains undisturbed and the baby rabbits’ abdomens appear sunken the next day, then the mother has not returned to feed them, and you should contact a rehabilitator. Young rabbits easily succumb to stress, so handle them only as a last resort.
- Put the rabbit in a closed escape-proof container with a soft ravel-free cloth.
- If the eyes are closed, it will require a small amount of heat. You may put the box half on and half off a heating pad set on low. Monitor it so it does not get too hot, the rabbit should feel warm, but not hot to the touch. Older rabbits will not require heat.
- Cover the box with a towel, and put it in a quiet place away from children and pets.
- Do not attempt to feed baby bunnies. They have very sensitive digestive systems and need special formula.
- We often get calls for injured rabbits. Generally they have been hit by a car, cat caught or hawk caught. Many of these are successfully treated and released back into the wild.
- If you find an injured rabbit, pick it up using a towel and contain it in a box with a soft cloth in a quiet place away from children or other animals. Rabbits are easily stressed and can die from stress easily.
Do not attempt to feed babies. Rabbits only eat every 12 hours, and it will not hurt the animal to wait until you get it to a licensed rehabber.About Cottontails
(the most common species in San Diego)
- Brownish gray in color, hind foot about a quarter of the body’s length, white cotton-like tail.
- Found throughout southwestern North America; range extends as far south as central Mexico and as far west as the Pacific coast.
- Mainly found in arid regions, but can also be found in grasslands and woodlands. When not feeding, heavy brush, brambles, or holes are needed to hide from predators.
- Diet consists almost exclusively of grasses. Will eat the occasional fruit, nut, or vegetable when available.
- Preyed upon by foxes, coyotes, badgers, bobcats, domestic dogs and cats, and raptors.
- Rarely live over 3 years.
- Breeding occurs between December and June. During this period, a female usually has 2-4 litters of 1-6 young each.
- Nests, made by females, are usually holes about 20 cm deep lined with grass and fur.
- Desert cottontails are more athletic than other species in their genus; they are able to climb trees and swim.
- If environmental conditions are unfavorable, pregnant females can reabsorb some embryos before gestation is complete.
- Rabbits are rarely considered a great nuisance but may get into gardens and eat flowers and vegetables.
- Decorative rabbit-proof fencing is readily available at hardware stores.
- Bitter-tasting plants, such as marigolds, placed around the perimeter of the garden, may deter rabbits and other small animals from entering.
Wildlife Care Center
San Diego, CA 92110
Directions & Map
Open 7 days a week
(except Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Year's Day)
Staff/Volunteer hours: 8:30a.m. - 5:00p.m.
Drop-off area is open 24/7.
Outside of San Diego County?
If you are outside of our geographical area, please visit the emergency page of Wildlife International or contact your local Department of Animal Control or state Fish and Game office.
Resources for the media to learn more about the good work Project Wildlife provides San Diego County.