We have always been quite cautious about taking in anything we aren’t confident about dealing with. It’s why if we accept hedgehogs, bats or birds of prey they are sent on to our specialist friends as soon as possible.
When we decide to expand from just birds into wildlife I did as much research as I could on the kinds of animals I was expecting to get in. Rabbits were obviously one of these and over the last few years we’ve probably had one or two a year.
This year has seen a large number of rabbits coming into the rescue. Some of which went to Whitby Wildlife Rescue as they get large numbers in and are in the perfect location to release them.
Over the last fortnight alone we have admitted 4 baby rabbits. Three were found by a dog walker in the remains of a mound of earth in a quarry. The last one, Bugsy, we carried into a house by a cat sporting a broken leg.
Rabbits are prone to anorexia when they are taken from the wild. They are also susceptible to gut issues which can prove fatal. There is alot you need to know before even attempting to raise one of these gorgeous little balls of fur. I had already ordered the necessary items so they were in stock – there is nothing worse than not having something you urgently need and having to order online and then wait for it to be delivered.
My first panic was when the set of three rabbits refused to suckle. It’s hard to get them to take milk when they are missing their Mum and in a strange environment – but they lose weight quickly and so it’s essential to get them eating. The relief when they finally latched onto the teat was tremendous – it felt like winning the lottery.
Research is absolutely essential when running a wildlife rescue. There are always updates in methods and products – and there are always various ways of doing the same thing. Some rescues find that rabbit babies take milk better from syringes and that they have better control of the dispersal of the liquid. I have found that using a bottle works better for me as the rabbit has to suckle and will only take as much as it wants. I have always been of the opinion that you can never known enough and its important to try different methods and find the ones that work best for you.
The other issue with raising rabbits is taming them up. You don’t want them to become too familiar with your scent or to lose their natural instincts when it comes to people, dogs, cats etc. You want their flight instinct to remain in tact so when released they know to avoid when it comes to people – not to approach them. They need to know how to forage, hide and all the other things their Mum would have taught them. Apart from feeding time I don’t handle the rabbits at all.
I love working with rabbits – it’s moved from fear of the unknown to a comfortable familiarity with what is required.
Next year I hope to do one of the Bat Conservation Trust courses – not so we can take bats in but so I know how best to advise people if needed and if one did come in briefly then I would know what to do and what not to do.