RSPCA: Give wild baby bunnies a hoppy Easter – leave them alone
RSPCA says think twice and seek advice
An influx of wild baby rabbits have been brought into RSPCA wildlife centres for help, many by well-meaning people mistakenly assuming they have been abandoned or orphaned.
There has already been a total of 65 newborn rabbits, known as kittens, taken into our four centres this year. Currently there are 31 being cared for, most of them being bottle fed.
These tiny animals are very difficult to rear in captivity and many do not survive. They are often picked up when parents are just around the corner or when they would be much better off left in the wild.
Paul Oaten, wildlife supervisor at West Hatch in Somerset, said they had already had a total of 21 kittens brought into them this year and were currently looking after five. He said: “It really is a case of mum knows best.
“We do all we can to wean these little babies but just can’t do as good a job as their natural parents or provide the same conditions as they would have in the wild.
“People mean well by bring these little babies in to us but in most cases it would be better if they were left where they were.”
Spring is peak breeding time for rabbits, which are born underground in the warren and tend to stay there until they are between 18 and 25 days old.
After this youngsters can often be seen exploring and developing survival skills above ground as it is quite normal for the mother to leave them for long periods of time as she goes to feed herself. This is when it can be quite common for passing members of the public to see them and presume they are in trouble so pick them up.
Baby rabbits don’t adjust to captivity easily. They are easily stressed which can mean they do not feed well, and their chances of survival are a lot higher if they are not removed from the wild.
There also cases where rabbit kittens are unearthed by people digging in the garden, or are brought in by cats.
Nicola Cunningham, RSPCA wildlife scientist, said: “Sometimes the rabbit kittens do need help, but often they don’t. What we always say to people is to think twice, watch from a distance and seek advice from an expert before interfering with one.
“It is not just rabbit kittens our centres have this issue with. Spring can be a magical time for wildlife and it is wonderful to see baby animals in the wild. But every year our centres are inundated with young animals after people, with best of intentions, believe them to be orphaned or abandoned and bring them in.
“We would ask the public to do all they can to help animals during this time – this includes leaving baby animals alone.”
For more advice, check out our website or call our 24-hour cruelty and advice number on 0300 1234 999.
Notes to editors
— *There are four RSPCA wildlife centres in England:- Mallydams Wood in East Sussex; East Winch in Norfolk; West Hatch in Somerset; and Stapeley Grange in Cheshire.
— Total admissions per wildlife centre so far this year: West Hatch – 21 rabbit kittens. East Winch – 4. Stapeley Grange – 25. Mallydams Wood – 15.
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