Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Requiem for Baby Bunnies (RIP!!)

Ok. Hana's a dog and, therefore, inclined to do doggie things, such as eyeing small mammals and birds like one of her hapless squeaky toys. Not quite as harmless as it sounds, especially if you know what she actually does to her squeaky toys. I am reluctantly squeamish to admit that in her lifetime, she's killed one squirrel, two gophers, and two house finches. The squirrel-gophercide episodes I can live with, but the house finch thing still befuddles me. Hana's prowess in bird hunting is formidably scary - more feline than canine, so thank goodness that her interest in birdies has waned considerably since the last "incident."

Hana is pretty much under constant supervision except when she's out in the dog run doing her duty, etc., etc. So what could go wrong in an enclosed dog run? Well, enter the scene a stupendously stupid mother rabbit. Not being judgmental here, but what kind of wild leporid would build her freaking nest in a DOG RUN of all places. You'd think that the tell-tale scent of doggie poop & urine would have been a major deterrent.  Last Friday night, around 9:30pm, we noticed that Hana was MIA and so I went down to the dog run to see if she was hanging out there. Let me tell you, but then maybe I shouldn't: I found Hana behind a clump of geraniums along the wall looking super alert, tail wagging, and "guilty" at the same time when she saw me at the door - that's code for "Mom, I know I did something bad, but I couldn't help myself and, and I don't know why, but I'm totally beside myself with inexplicable excitement." Foregoing the unnecessary details, the final body count of baby rabbits in the dog run was eight. She found the nest under the geraniums and I'm just surprised that she hadn't noticed them earlier. The "happy" ending to this otherwise morbid and morose story is that we found two babies who had escaped their siblings' fate. Needless to say, Hana was banned from her own dog run until we could figure out how to save these little guys. After some cursory research on the web, I felt oddly relieved to find that there were tons of blogs, websites, and chats galore along the lines of  "HELP! MY DOG/CAT ATTACKED A NEST OF BABY BUNNIES." Apparently, rabbits are not the brightest bulbs in the pantheon of wild critters. So, Hana is somewhat vindicated. Somewhat, being the operative word. 

We rebuilt the nest with some barley hay and put the one baby we caught back into it, hoping that mom would return to nurse them. The second baby had initially disappeared under the shrubbage, but found its way back to the nest by the next morning. We wanted so badly to name them. But, they were never ours to keep, just to rescue. 

A few interesting factoids about wild bunnies: 
1) Mother rabbit only comes to the nest 2-3 times a day (usually early morning and dusk) to nurse her babies for 5-10 minutes (rabbit's milk is extremely rich & loaded with nutrients). They don't sit on the nest like birds would, to avoid attracting predators. OBVIOUSLY, that concept doesn't work too well if you build your nest in a dog run, for God's sake... 

2)Unless mother rabbit is dead, always, always, put the babies back into the nest. Even if you handle the babies, mom won't be detracted by the human scent.  

3)In about 4 weeks, when they reach 4-5", eyes are open, ears away from the head, and the little white stripe on their foreheads diminished, baby bunnies are ready to leave the nest. Thank the deuces that these babies looked on the verge of fledging, so to speak. By this morning, both babies were gone. We're happy and sad. Anyhoo, we just started letting Hana back into the dog run, but only with one of us there to watch her. We'll keep this up for the next few days until we're absolutely sure the babies are not coming back. Sniff. May they live long and prosper. As long as they don't eat anything growing in my garden. 

Some informative websites about rescuing baby bunnies: 


Back in the reconstructed nest.


  1. Well, don't forget, they breed like rabbits, and it's probably not a bad thing if a predator comes along helping mother nature. Sure, it's not a pretty sight, and after all, they're mammals. But many of my friends aren't vegetarian fact, they'll eat rabbit, if only it's well prepared.

  2. Well gosh darn. Those wascally wabbits, stars of bunny-palooza if I recall correctly, are so cute at that age. I'm sorry Hana's instincts kicked in, but in the wild world of bunnydom, if not Hana, quite likely Bob the cat, or Wiley Coyote. No doubt we'll see these two little cottontails by late summer zipping around your peach tree on critter cam, no? ;)

  3. My dog found a nest in the backyard last year. I understand how frustrating it is. Your dog looks (or at least my dog looked) cute and cuddly until it attacked the bunnies. I felt sick, myself. But a dog has instincts. And at least I consoled myself with the thought that the bunny mama wouldn't do that agin.

  4. May the bunnies have a long life--dining on things far away from your garden! Fortunately my cat isn't exactly a terrific birder--her bird count is about the same as Hana's. But she loves her grasshoppers, a vice that I'll help along by throwing her grasshoppers whenever I find them in the garden.

  5. Hoping for a positive update. So sad.
    btw My sweet lovable Baron is also a small mammal KILLER. Oh well its all instinct.

  6. Rather irresistable. Unfortunately, I never see rabbits in my backyards. Plenty of skunks and racoons, though.

  7. Town Mouse, they do indeed breed like rabbits. They're everywhere this spring, but mostly the adult version. The cuteness factor of these little babies was in play here.

    Clare, if the two younguns survive other predators, then I'm sure they'll be part of bunny-palooza under the peach tree in a couple of months. Then I won't be so enamored of them.

    Tracy, it's soooo hard to get mad at our adorable poochies when they do something that seems so inherently wrong. But then they're dogs, and going after bunnies is pretty de rigueur.

    Hi Elena - finally joined Facebook, so will try to find you there.

    James, can I borrow your cat? Anyone who know me knows that I'm beyond phobic when it comes to grasshoppers unless they're the drabbish brown ones under an inch in length. Doesn't bode well for someone like me who loves gardening and the outdoors.

    troutbirder, so far so good. The babies are gone from the nest and hopefully thriving on anything other than my garden greens. Baron sure is a sweet and well-behaved pooch, but like Hana, probably has that hunting instinct in him.

    altadenahiker, rabbits are generally cuter than skunks and raccoons, but you may not think too well of them after they start mowing down all the herbage you've painstakingly planted in your garden. These guys were just too cute, though!

  8. BTW fracking? Karoo
    It is also a problem in Pennsylvania ...

  9. I know that they look so cute at that age but after seeing the destruction that those bunnies can do to a garden I wouldn't dream of encouraging any in my garden at all. If they don't like the top growth then they dig up the plant and start to eat the roots. Many a morning I dreaded going downstairs to see what they had been grazing on overnight............. well they didn't last too long once the neighbours started owning cats.

  10. what genus species/common name are these bunnies