Birthing: March-October, generally 2-6 but could be as many as ten in a litter. 2-7 litters per year
Eyes opened: 8 days
Weaning (beg-end): most successfully weened under 3 weeks
Active: Most active early morning and late afternoon/evening
Nests: Dug out areas in the ground, covered with dry grass, twigs, fur, etc. Most calls come in early spring when the first lawn mowing occurs.
Eastern cottontails are very prone to die of stress and are terrified of humans. They are not the same species as domestic rabbits and can not breed with them. If a rabbit is found that seems very calm or friendly, it may be a domestic; call the Helpline for determination
I found a baby rabbit. What should I do?
Should I release it here if I think there are foxes or other predators?
Could we keep it until it’s a little bigger, then release it?
I discovered a nest. Was it abandoned?
• Remove injured/dead rabbits. Refer injured rabbits to the Helpline.
• Keep dogs and cats inside until the rabbits have left the nest on their own.
• Recover the remaining rabbits and make a teepee or crosshatch of twigs or straw on top of the nest. Leave the nest alone and check the next morning. If the twigs or straw have been disturbed but the nest is still covered, the mother has returned. Do not visit the nest every few hours or the mother will abandon it.
As prey animals, rabbits are very prone to dying quickly when frightened. Handling small rabbits can send them into shock and if placed in captivity, they can die of fright. They also have a high mortality rate in rehabilitation. Every reasonable effort should be made to allow the mother to continue to raise them.
IF IN DOUBT, call Wildlife Helpline. Some of the cases in which renesting may not be possible are when the nest has been very disturbed and mother will probably not return, or a dog knows the location and cannot be kept away.