Prairie Wildlife Rehab Centre: "Don't kidnap the bunnies"

Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre ends up with hundreds of bunnies every year after people disturb nests

The Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre has a message for Winnipeggers as spring arrives and the city's population of rabbits gets to doing what they seem to like to do best this time of year.

Don't kidnap the baby bunnies.

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Every year, the volunteer-run animal rescue and rehabilitation centre ends up with as many as 500 rabbits in their care after well-meaning Winnipeggers find what they think are abandoned nests in their yards and try to save the floppy-eared animals.

But most of those bunnies aren't in fact in danger, says Simone Brandson, the centre's education coordinator.

"People see them in their yard, find a little nest and then go, 'Oh mom's not here I must pick them up and bring them some help,'" Brandson said.


The Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre says it ends up with as many 500 rabbits in its care every year. (Submitted by Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre)

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"But the reality is … mom only comes to the nest twice, maybe three times a day, and that's it — the rest of the time the baby bunnies are completely alone.

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"The idea is that mom doesn't want to attract any attention towards the nest, and if you're there watching the nest, mom is not going to come, and so that's why people the nest is abandoned and they pick up the babies."

The centre took to Facebook this week to give advice to those worried about the bunnies in their yard.

Brandson says mother bunnies will cover their nests — which are dug out into the ground — with fresh grass clippings to hide them from predators.

While they're normally hard to spot, Winnipeggers are more likely to come across the nests this time of year as they head out into their yards to start raking.

Brandson says anyone who thinks they may have found an abandoned nest should make a subtle change to the nest — like laying a picked flower or piece of thread over top — and then watch the nest to see if it is moved over the next few days.


Brandson says baby bunnies are about the size of a tennis ball when they leave the nest after about four weeks. (Submitted by Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre)

"That way if mom comes to feed her babies, she'll disturb what you put across, and then you'll know that mom has come," she explained, adding the centre also sees people bringing in baby bunnies once they leave the nest too, because they see them in their gardens and they're worried by their size.

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The newborn bunnies will leave the nest after about four weeks, but they're still very small, usually no bigger than a tennis ball.

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Brandson says not to worry about the pint-sized bunnies, they're completely independent once they leave the nest and will soon plump up — that's likely what they're doing in your garden in the first place.

Brandson says Winnipeggers should only call the centre if they've accidentally injured a rabbit or if a predator has been seen disturbing the nest.

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Thumbnail: The Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre wants Winnipeggers to leave baby bunnies in their nests this spring. (Submitted by Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre)