Earlier this summer, I took in an adult female cottontail rabbit with injuries from a hawk attack. She had somehow managed to escape from the bird, but was badly wounded and very stressed.
It was her second night with me and I was tending her wounds when I suddenly noticed a very tiny baby bunny on the table with us! This was a huge surprise since the injured mother was not lactating or showing any other signs of pregnancy.
The baby looked premature, and the mother was in no condition to care for it, so I made a quick decision to raise it for her. I snuggled it in some soft blanketing, placed it in a small carrier on a warm heating pad, and started acclimating it to a bottle.
The bun weighed just 18 grams (0.63 ounces, or about 0.04 pounds.) I doubted it would survive. In general, it is rare for bunnies less than two days old to survive to release. The odds are even lower for premies.
Incredibly, the baby ate heartily later that same night. (We use special formula and feed them with special syringe and nipple. Later we encourage the buns to lap from a dish before we wean them off onto hay, pellets and eventually fresh greens.) The photo above is of the baby the day it was born.
My concern then turned back to the mother rabbit. Were there other babies not yet born and, if so, what could be done to help her?
As usual, Dr. Chan, WRARI’s veterinarian, came to the rescue.
We emailed and exchanged text messages. She outlined the several possible outcomes and explained why there was nothing we could do to influence any of them.
We could only continue to provide supportive care for both mother and baby.
I continued to treat the injured mother rabbit for her pain and wounds, and wait. I also continued to feed and support the bun, along with many others in my care. Unfortunately, the mother rabbit continued to fail, and we made the hard decision to euthanize.
The photo to the right is miracle bunny at 4.5 weeks old.
Because of the unusual circumstances, Dr. Chan agreed to perform a necropsy. The exam revealed a uterine infection; the rabbit had at least two other unborn babies. Combined with everything else it was just too much for the mother rabbit to overcome.
I was sad to lose the mother, but determined to keep doing what I could for the baby.
Remarkably, the young rabbit continued to thrive.
MUCH to my surprise, it grew into a fine young cottontail strong enough to go back to the wild.
We released our “miracle bunny” last week as you can see in the photo to the right.