I suppose it would be a toss up as to what spring babies are the most likely to be rescued by well meaning folks who encounter them during their landscaping activities or retrieve them from the jaws of their pets. But likely tied for first place would be baby snowshoe hares (leverets) and ‘brancher’ baby robins (too big for the nest but flight feathers aren’t developed) who hop around on the ground or low branches.
In this post I will cover snowshoe hares or baby bunnies as they are more likely to be called. Hares are a rehabber’s nightmare as they are most commonly kidnapped and have a very low survival success in rehab.
Hares are born fully furred, in a shallow hair-lined nest. The nest is often just along the edges of rural lawns where the grass is left a bit longer near bush lines. Or under brush piles or wind fall. Or under overturned boats or in wood or lumber piles. You know, all those places we, as house or cottage owners, want to start whipper snipping, burning, cleaning up or moving when the weather gets nice in the spring.
So, as a wildlife rehabilitator, I dread answering the phone on the long weekend in May, the weekend cottagers usually come to open up their camps and clean up their lots. It more often than not means they have encountered baby bunnies.
Often if the young haven’t been singed in a burning brush pile, or suffered amputation from weed whackers or lawnmowers, they can be safely set back and left alone. Mom will come back for them. And as a measure of when they are capable of hiding and looking out for themselves, I go by the length of their body and ears. If they are about 5 inches in length and if they can hold their ears upright and if the ears are one inch or more, they don’t need help.
It is hard to convince some well meaning folks that these tiny, painfully cute little animals are perfectly capable of living in the woods without human help. Most folks don’t realize that the baby hares disperse from their nest at a few days old, spreading out and only coming back together once or maybe twice a day, usually dusk and dawn,when mom comes back to feed them. They have a better chance of avoiding predators by spreading out.
I guess the best advice I could get out there to help reduce the numbers of orphaned, injured or kidnapped babies coming into rehab is this…
Before mowing or brushing, do a walk around your property, checking for babies (or nests).
Burn brush in the fall or early spring when there is still snow on the ground.
If you find a nest, avoid the area…often a day or a week is all the time the young need to become independent.
Keep pets under your care and control…not only to protect wildlife but for your pets safety too.
After 30-some years as a wildlife rehabber, I keep saying each spring is my last. Education can help many, while I can only help a few. So I hope maybe my blogs can make a difference.
And I never thought I would say that long, cold northwestern Ontario springs are a blessing, but my fellow rehabbers in warmer climes are already being swamped with spring babies. I, on the other hand, know there won’t be any baby calls for me anytime soon. And that’s a good thing.