Baby Cottontail Rescue Advice

Baby Cottontail Rescue

eastern-cottontail-nest-ForestPreserveDistrictDuPageCounty-featureIf you find a wild baby bunny exhibiting any of the following signs listed below, call Willowbrook Wildlife Center at 630-942-6200.

View a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators in your area.

Wildlife Rehabilitators

Or, find information about an injured or orphaned animal you have found.

Wildlife Rescue Advice

I Found a Baby Bunny. What Should I Do?

Find the information you need to assess the animal's condition, determine if it needs help and then take action.

Signs a Baby Bunny Needs Help

  • Obvious bleeding
  • Obvious fracture 
  • Severe head tilt
  • Swollen, crusty and red eyes or obvious eye injury
  • Obvious maggots or parasites

Call Willowbrook Before You Make the Drive

Before you make a drive to Willowbrook Wildlife Center, call first at 630-942-6200. The animal admittance area is open 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., but call first for no-contact curbside drop-offs.

How to Help a Baby Bunny

If you have found a baby bunny, take a few simple measures to help a baby bunny.

Put the baby bunny back in its nest.

  1. Gently place the young back in the nest. It's okay to handle it with gloved hands. The mother will not reject it. 

  2. Cover the young with any leftover nesting fur and dried grass.

  3. Leave the nest alone. Frequent acitvity around the nest can force the mother to abandon it. 

If the baby fits the following description, it may be on its own.

  • Ears up
  • Eyes open
  • Able to hop
  • About 5 inches long 

Don't look for mom.

You shouldn't expect to see the mother. She only feeds her young once or twice a day and usually at night. Otherwise, she stays away so she doesn't bring attention to the nest, which is a defense strategy that many species use.

Because the female stays away for so long, people may think her young are orphaned. However, a female can raise an entire litter without ever being seen.

If you're still concerned, you can check to see if the mother returns.

  1. Lightly place string or twigs over the nest in a tac-tac-toe pattern, and leave the nest overnight. If the strings are disturbed in the morning, the mother has likely been there to feed her babies.

  2. See if the young look generally healthy and are warm and active with rounded bellies. If so, the mother is present.

  3. If the babies are cold and lethargic with flattened bellies, something may have happened to their mother. Call Willowbrook Wildlife Center at 630-942-6200 for assistance.

Eastern cottontails and other young wild animals are not constantly supervised by their parents. They spend much of their time alone or with siblings. Because of this, people should leave the young alone when possible. Cottontails are particularly difficult to raise in captivity, even by experts.

What You Should Never Do

Trapping and removing an animal is not always the solution to the problem. Removing the animal is illegal without the proper permits and only creates an open space for another animal to inhabit. A trapped adult may also leave young behind to die of starvation. Focus on removing the attraction, not the animal.

Never move young from a den.

Never use poisons. They're inhumane and may be illegal. They can also result in secondary poisoning of other wild animals or pets. 

It's illegal to keep wild animals, even for a short time. They have special nutritional, housing and handling needs, and inexperienced individuals who try to raise or treat them inevitably produce unhealthy, tame animals that can't survive in the wild. 

Wildlife Acceptance Policy

Willowbrook treats injured, ill and orphaned native animals to DuPage County. We do not accept skunks, bats, deer, beavers or trapped nuisance animals. We do not accept nonnative animals, including European starlings, house sparrows and pigeons. We also do not accept native wildlife raised as pets, as efforts to reverse any taming or imprinting are unsuccessful.

Willowbrook may have species-specific admission criteria. In the case where an animal does not meet that criteria and is unable to be treated at the center, we will work to help rescuers and other agencies find other licensed wildlife rehabilitators or referrals.

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's Willowbrook Wildlife Center rehabilitates native wild animals. If our center cannot care for an animal, we offer information about resources and other rehabilitators.

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