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Old 05-24-2010, 03:28 AM   #1
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I have a young, independent cottontail rabbit, Rupert, who has been living in my backyard for about a week and a half. It may be longer than that, but that's when I first noticed him, about a week and a half ago.

Firstly, my reasons for wanting to domesticate him are not for my own personal pleasure. We have many predators living around here, such as cats and raccoons. However, fortunately, the raccoon has not been around for a while. He does come around during the fall though. However, there has been a vicious cat, which has chased the young cottontail three times now. Luckily, I was thereto intervene and I "hosed" and chased down the cat. Other times that cat would enter my backyard, clearly, waiting for the cottontail to show up. Once again though, I would chase the cat off.

Ever since the first chase, I was really worried for the young cottontail's safety. Since the past 4 days, I have been spending 14 hours a day, trying to protect it from outside predators. I do this by sitting on my balcony, observing the yard. Fortunately, the rabbit stays only in my yard. The rabbit generally wakes up at 6 am, and goes to bed around 8pm. Fortunately, I've finished my school semester and now I have a free summer to look after the cottontail. However, this is very demanding, and it drains me. It would be much easier to just finally domesticate him.

I know some may think I’m crazy or that I should “just let it go, it’s just a wild animal”, but I don’t want too. This rabbit is very special to me.

At first, he was scared when I would go near him. However, as each day passes by, he seems to be less afraid. Perhaps he understands I do not want to hurt him. More and more, I feel as if he acknowledges my presence, as I can now stand just some feet away from him while he eats. However, today I got really close and tried to give him some lettuce, but he just froze. He looked very nervous, so I walked away shortly after.

I've set up a manual humanetrap, where I put lettuce in front of my big basket. However, I failed twice in trying to catch him. I was too late in pulling the cord, he had moved before I gotten a chance. It is safe to say, I need to work on my timing skills. Nonetheless, He is very sharp & brilliant.



Anyways, my plans are this. I'm going to continue in trying to trap him. Once he is trapped, I'm going to keep him in there for a few seconds to see how he reacts. If he is very agitated and angry, then I will have no choice but to let him loose. However, if he is calm, then perhaps I could actually keep him?Obviously, I would bring him to a vet first, to check him out and get him his proper vaccines.

My plans IF I catch him and domesticate him…

Once I keep him, I would continue to let him out in my backyard during the day, but in a very large pen, so that he could not run off. I would obviously feed him the best foods (veggies/fruits).

At night I would bring him in, and put him in a room all by himself with a nest (a big box filled with hay or whatever it requires for this type of rabbit), for him to sleep. I would let him free in that room, with some water and food available. Once again, during the day I would bring him outside, so that he could play in his very large pen for several hours.

This is the best I could come up with, and I’m very seriously considering in domesticating him. I have a strong feeling that I need to do this. Like I said we have a lot of predators (cats, raccoons), and winters up here are very harsh too. Only about 15% of them survive.

Feedback would be much appreciated, especially facts too. I'm sure there is at least a few of you who have had a wildrabbit as a pet, or maybe some of you have worked with rabbits, perhaps some of you are also vets?



Thanks,

Chris




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Old 05-24-2010, 03:57 AM   #2
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theres a chance hell go into shock and die if you catch him...their hearts are sensitive to stress.



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Old 05-24-2010, 04:45 AM   #3
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As she said that is true he could die instantly. There is also the chance it is illegal to keep him. You should check the laws in your area. If it is than vets would not be able to treat him. I think that what your heart is in the right place but I also think you would be doing this bunny a big injustice. This is not a domesticated animal that you are trying to catch it is a wild animal. Who is used to his freedom. He would never be able to have friends, or a mate. He (or she) would not be able to live a full life.


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Old 05-24-2010, 07:25 AM   #4
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As a natural resource technician here in Ontario, I can tell you that it is illegal to keep any wildlife in any Canadian jurisdiction without being a licensed wildlife rehabilitation professional. Vet care would be virtually impossible to access.

If you were to trap him, he may die from fright (as mentioned). He would not choose to fight; rabbits are prey animals, and their first line of defense is to freeze when in fear . He will be far too afraid of you to do anything, except cower in fear. According to Babcock, (2007),
"However their first line of defense is the same mechanism which protected them in the prairie or the forest - freezing. A frozen bunny sits perfectly still, can be approached and even picked up, because he thinks he cannot be seen. If he remains quiet in the hands of a human this is a sure indication that he is in shock and will die unless he is released. Humans must not mistake this behavior for contentment."

Furthermore, the diet of young cottontail is very special, and cannot be replicated easily. It is a very specific mix of vegetation which the rabbit browses upon. Without this diet, the vast majority of cottontails quickly succumb to metabolic and nerve problems in captivity (http://www.tc.umn.edu/~devo0028/guideto.htm). Fewer than 10% of orphaned rabbits will survive a week and many carers end up harming the rabbits; cottontails must be kept on very clean surfaces (http://en.allexperts.com/q/Wild-Animals-705/wild-baby-cottontail-rabbit.htm).

I think that the deepest way to show that you truly care for an animal is to put your own desires aside, and think of what is best for Rupert. He would live a long, full and happy life under your protection in the garden, and might even find a mate to bring home to your yard.

Perhaps you would like to invest your time in building him a fabulous bunny garden to enjoy throughout the summer? From your pictures, I can see that there is plenty of room for a garden in your yard. There is a gardening thread in the Library that is very helpful: Quick List: Gardening for your Bunny

Chris, I think that you are an unselfish person who only wants the best for this little one. You say that to have him would not be for personal pleasure: I can assure you that being inside would not be a pleasure for him either. For this reason, I am sure you agree that the very best place for him is wild and free, living in your yard.

In closing, I refer you to this thread by a wonderful wildlife rehab pro: http://rainbowwildlife.blogspot.com/ . (Read the May 9th entry)

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Old 05-24-2010, 11:04 AM   #5
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Thank you for all the replies and info, much of it was very convincing.

I do agree, that it would harm Rupert if I kept him. Whenever I get too close, he does freeze, then the moment I saw him shake, I backed off right away. I could tell he was extremly nervous and in a state of fear. There is just no way, I could keep him.

The best alternative is that I block off the appropriate gaps and openings to prevent a larger predator from enterning such as that cat or even a racoon, although I have not seen the racoon in ages. If I do see a racoon on my property, I will just call the humane society or whomever.I willtell them I don't want it staying on my property.


In addition to his normal nutrition, we have put some lettuce on the ground for him, to ensure that he stays and he feels comfortable in the yard. He eats all the lettuce we put out for him. However, it is just a fraction of his total intake of food per day. He is big on grass, weeds, dandelions and leafs off of several plants.

I suppose he will eventually want to mate, is there a process where the male goes out to search for a female, or vice versa? I ask this, because, earlier, I mentioned I blocked off some gaps below the fence. Although, the cat cannot enter, that means that Rupert also cannot leave, even though he has never tried to anyways. However,there is one small opening that he goes in and out of, which leads to another yard. I have not blocked that off, and I will continue to leave it open, since it is too small for the cat to even enter through.

Until I find a solution to completely prevent the cat from entering my yard, then and only then will I feel OK.

I read somewhere, that it is actually against the law to leave any pet, such as a cat, to roam free onto others' properties. A pet, has to be constricted to its owner's property. Personally, it is against my wish and permission to have a cat on my property, that is already one infraction my neighbor has broken. I need to call the humane society and make more complaints to my city council to finally get that cat removed permanently.

Anyways time for me to get a good nap in, I got another 14 hour day of protecting this beautiful little Rupert.

Thanks,

Chris

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Old 05-24-2010, 02:11 PM   #6
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There was a show here in the usa about making your yard a backyard habitat. I wonder if you could make the yard into a safe haven... Hmm I will see if I can find info on that. Than you can make it more tempting to stick around.

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Old 05-24-2010, 03:25 PM   #7
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I agree with JadeIcing and NorthernAutumn; I think it would be wonderful if you modified part of your back yard into a haven for him, with good edibles (I suggest planting wild foods rabbits like over giving him lettuces; his liking of it doesn't necessarily mean it is giving him what he needs nutritionally), hiding places, a water source, etc. I am so happy to hear that you are willing to let him live outside as he ought to; it shows far more love and respect for that animal than attempting to keep it inside. I have been a wildlife rehabilitator for about eight years, and a large % of my patients are orphaned rabbits. You can imagine how easy it is to get attached, but my happiest day for them is when they return to the wild.

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Old 05-24-2010, 03:34 PM   #8
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RandomWiktor wrote:
Quote:
I agree with JadeIcing and NorthernAutumn; I think it would be wonderful if you modified part of your back yard into a haven for him, with good edibles (I suggest planting wild foods rabbits like over giving him lettuces; his liking of it doesn't necessarily mean it is giving him what he needs nutritionally), hiding places, a water source, etc. I am so happy to hear that you are willing to let him live outside as he ought to; it shows far more love and respect for that animal than attempting to keep it inside. I have been a wildlife rehabilitator for about eight years, and a large % of my patients are orphaned rabbits. You can imagine how easy it is to get attached, but my happiest day for them is when they return to the wild.



I need to know/found out which foods are most nutritional for them.

I have two rock gardens with several plants and shrubs. He eats the leafs fromthe plants and always hides there. It is essentially connected to his home, the hole under my shed.

As for a water source, I suppose I will place a flat bowl. A bird bath, except without a stand? I will buy a bird bath, and just place the bowl part on the ground near his haven.

Also, what happens in the winter? Where does he hide or do theyhibernate? I'd imagine it would be extremly difficult to survive in harsh weather, especiallyup here.



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Old 05-24-2010, 03:40 PM   #9
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I found an article on Cottontails.

http://hunting.about.com/od/hunting/p/cottontail.htm

The most interesting thing I found was this...

Quote:
Lifespan:
Cottontail rabbits have a widely variable lifespan. While some estimate that they may live as long as a decade in captivity, on the other end of the extreme is a life expectancy of just four months. It's realistic to expect a average cottontail in the wild to live no longer than a year or so.
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Old 05-24-2010, 04:03 PM   #10
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I'm sure if you provide him a haven in your backyard that would increase his life expectancy. If you make it predator-proof and provide him with a wide variety of edible plants, it will make it less necessary for him to leave and he will stick around under your watchful eye. Hiding places are good to provide too, places where he can hide yet still nibble on food, because it a large enough bird comes by and he's out in the open grazing on plants they might decide he would make a tasty snack.

There are plenty of ways to extend his lifespan without bringing him into your home.



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