The Eastern Cottontail rabbit is the most common wild rabbit species in Ontario. They are prolific breeders and can have many litters a year.

Avoid disrupting the nest

Avoid moving a rabbit’s nest even if it is a poor nesting location. This may be because the mother determined it would be a safe space away from predators. If the nest is moved, it’s likely that the mother will abandon her young, leaving them vulnerable.

If your pet has disturbed the nest, cover the nest back up and leave the area. As long as you don’t move the nest and restore it to its original state, it’s likely that the mother will return for her young.

Baby rabbits are typically weaned in three weeks. If their eyes are open by the time you locate the nest, it means that they are at least 10 days old. This means that they are close to leaving the nest. We recommend that you leave them alone, and if you have a pet, keep them on a leash until the young leave their nest.

What to do if you don’t see the mother

Female rabbits visit their nests two to three times within a 24-hour period to feed her young. The visits are short, typically lasting a few minutes. Afterwards, they leave the nesting site to avoid attracting predators that smell her scent, as baby rabbits are born with no scent so that predators can’t find them.

String test

If you’re concerned that the baby rabbits have been orphaned, you can try conducting a string test.

  1. Place a few pieces of yarn or light or cotton string in a tic-tac-toe pattern over the nest.
  2. Take a photo of the strings so you can determine if the strings have been moved.
  3. Leave the strings overnight, and check them in the morning. If the string has been moved, it means the mother returned to the nest overnight to feed her young.
  4. If the strings are exactly as how you left them, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for advice.

Avoid feeding rabbits

Leaving food or water out for the mother or baby rabbits can attract predators and possibly scare off the mother.

To ensure that both the mother and young ones are safe and don’t become dependent on people, avoid feeding them.

What to do when you encounter a rabbit

Rabbits, especially young ones, do poorly in captivity. Unless a rabbit appears ill or injured, avoid approaching it or taking care of it.

If you find a baby rabbit and you’re not sure if it may need help, check if:

  • They appear healthy
  • They can hop around
  • Their ears are upright

If they exhibit all three signs, it’s likely that the baby rabbit is healthy, old enough to leave the nest soon, and doesn’t need help.

If you’re unsure or concerned that the baby rabbit is ill or injured, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.