Baby Jackrabbit Found on the Trail
Watch our baby jackrabbit getting her morning feeding! This little hare chooses an unusual position
for her feedings with her head back. She’s not being restrained– this is how she likes to eat!
What would you do if you came around the corner on a hiking path and saw not one, but three tiny newborn baby Black-tailed Jackrabbits lying strewn across the trail? All of the babies had flies and yellowjackets buzzing around them. They were clearly in trouble.
Fortunately, these babies’ rescuers knew about WildCare. They rushed the little hares to the Wildlife Hospital, where intake notes say the babies were bright, alert and responsive, with fur still slick from being born within the last few hours. The baby jackrabbits had no injuries and appeared healthy.
So how had they ended up on the trail? It’s possible a predator disrupted the mother jackrabbit giving birth, and drove her out of hiding. Maybe she fled to draw the predator away from her newborn babies and didn’t make it back. As with so many of our wildlife patients, we’ll never know why these baby jacks were orphaned.
Unfortunately their ordeal wasn’t done. Raising jackrabbits in care is incredibly difficult. These animals are extremely subject to stress, and their digestive systems are incredibly sensitive. Likely due to the stress of whatever event orphaned them, two of the three baby jackrabbits died within a couple of days of intake.
However, this little female is doing very well! We will continue to provide her care as we search for another wildlife care center that has baby jacks of her same age. We never raise baby wildlife alone, and this little one needs to be placed with jacks her own age to grow up healthy and wild.
Watch this inquisitive orphan explore her surroundings after her feeding in the video below. Her caretaker uses a wet tissue to simulate the licking and nuzzling she would experience from her mother after nursing.
Jackrabbit mothers have an interesting strategy for protecting her young. Jackrabbits are hares, not actually rabbits, and their behavior is different from that of rabbits which raise their young in burrows.
The mother jackrabbit will give birth, usually to two, but sometimes to as many as three or four babies, and she will hide each baby in a separate location. Each baby’s job is to stay still and quiet until Mom comes back to nurse.
This is a strategy that is also used by Black-tailed Deer. Mother deer leave their fawns alone for up to 12 hours at a time, knowing that the fastest way to let a predator know that there is a fawn nearby is for the mother deer to show up. Both mother deer and mother jackrabbits keep their babies very clean so they have minimal scent to predators, and the fawns and leverets (baby jackrabbits) know to stay put to avoid detection.
Trouble happens when well-meaning humans find the fawn or leveret in the grass, see her sitting quietly and not running away, and decide she’s orphaned and needs to be rescued.
During the spring and summer months, WildCare sees more than a dozen fawns and baby jackrabbits that have been “kidnapped.” These young animals have the full bellies, moist mouths and good color of healthy babies, so we know they are not actually orphans. In this situation, we immediately ask the rescuer to return the baby to the exact spot where she was found, and leave the area to allow Mom to come back. In the vast majority of cases, that’s exactly what happens.
So, as a person concerned about wildlife, how do you determine if a baby fawn or leveret actually needs help? Follow the 5 Cs!
If an animal demonstrates any of these five symptoms, it is an emergency and she needs immediate help:
1. Is she Crying?
2. Is she Cold?
3. Is she Coming toward you (approaching people)?
4. Is she Covered in fluff (for baby birds) or blood, or crawling with insects?
5. Has she been Caught by a cat or a dog?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, immediately call WildCare’s Emergency Hotline at 415-456-7283 for assistance and advice.
If the baby is sitting still and quiet, she probably doesn’t need rescue. Leave the area and give Mom the space to come back to her baby.
WildCare currently has over 300 animals in care. Each one needs the special care only WildCare can provide to give them a second chance at life in the wild.