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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Orphaned Rabbit Adventures

Today we ended up with an orphaned wild rabbit.  My father-in-law was mowing the high grass in an elderly neighbor's yard.  In doing so he apparently disturbed a rabbit's nest, making the doe (yes, that's what a female rabbit is called) run off, killing one baby, and narrowly missing the other.  My wife was nearby shortly after and looked at the remaining bunny.  He was so tiny and young that she couldn't bring herself to leave him there knowing that he probably wouldn't survive.

So what does the wife of a vet do in a situation like this?  She calls her husband.

On the phone call I couldn't tell how injured he might be, so I told her to bring him in for me to look at.  I estimated him at around 2-3 weeks old based on his size and physical characteristics.  Though he seemed shaken up, I couldn't find any obvious injuries.  My daughter was there also and started virtually glowing when I said that he looked okay.  Not knowing what else to do and not having the heart to turn him out to possibly die, I agreed to trying to save him and nurse him until he could be on his own.

Luckily we had a spare 20 gallon tank that had previously been used for a rat.  While far too small for a full-grown rabbit, it will be enough for the 1-2 weeks I expect to keep him.  Given his estimated age, that's how long it should be until he can eat on his own and doesn't need to be nursed.

To be honest, I've never raised a wild animal before.  Almost thirty years in the field of veterinary medicine and I've avoided taking on an orphaned animal.  I guess this is what happens when you have a soft-hearted wife and an equally tender daughter who wants to be a vet.  So I'm not sure how this will go.  I would say his chances are only around 50% at this point as orphaned rabbits don't usually do well in captivity at this age.  We are giving him a milk replacer and I hope to have him eating hay and pellets within the next week or so.  My inexperience in doing something like this is certainly a factor, and it does make me nervous.  I have theoretical knowledge of how to care for orphaned wildlife but have never been faced with the reality.  We'll give him the best care we can, but a lot of this is up to God.

As this is a progressing story, I'll update in a few days when we see how he is doing.  Oh, and the kids named him Thumper.


  1. I am wondering how I could formally ask you a Great Dane question re: knuckling over?

  2. I am also a vet who sees rabbits and I tell clients in this situation to put the baby back. Mother rabbits are easily scared off their nests but they return to it. If that is not possible, in my area, it would be my responsibility to find a rehabber to care for him and I've him the best shot -it's actually illegal for me to keep wildlife beyond immediate stabilization. Please find him someone with experience.

  3. Why don't you check with a wildlife rehabber? With their expertise, they might be able to raise the odds of survival from 50/50.

  4. DrSteggy and Jeannie, I normally agree. Unfortunately we don't have any licensed rehabilitators in this area. I've had a hard time trying to find them for my own clients. We didn't put the baby back because the nest was destroyed and therefore the mother was a lot less likely to return. I'm also aware of the legality of the situation. So I had to weigh all of those options, especially not knowing how injured he might be. Thankfully he's doing well so far, and I anticipate being able to release him in a week or two.

  5. Here is a list of all licensed wildlife rehabilitation facilities/individuals in the state of Georgia:

  6. Thanks for that list, JG! Unfortunately none of these are very close to me. However, I'll keep this list at work to give to any clients who call.


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