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plasticbunny

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A week and a bit ago, a lady ran into my store holding a sweater out in front of her. She had seen a cat digging about in a nest of baby cottontails and had pulled the three babies from the nest in an attempt to rescue them. Beyond that, she had no idea what to do.

The first thing I suggested she do is to put them back, but she looked at me like I had two heads. I then suggested she contact a wildlife rehabber to take the babies, but she ho-hummed over that as well. And so, I offered to take them off her hands and raise them (all the while in my mind knowing that I'd be searching for a nearby rehabber after work).

Well, it turns out there's not a whole lot of wildlife rehabbers in my area, and the ones that we do have are full. No person to answer the phone or anything, just a recorded message saying "sorry, we're full". It was getting frustrating. One number finally connected me to a person who said that yes, they were full, but told me what I needed to do to keep these babies alive. KMR, which I had already purchased and fed to them, should be syringed four times a day based on their age, until their bellies were full but not firm.

I examined the babies (there were only three) for obvious disease, fleas, injury, etc. The smallest of the three was more lethargic than the other two and also had a scratch near its genitals. I did not expect this one to survive. They had just begun to open their eyes, so I estimated that they were around ten days old. I packed a basket with a warm wool sweater, shredded fleece, and hay, and they snuggled together.

The next morning, the runt was dead, which was unsurprising. I fed the remaining two their KMR and packed them back in their basket. They lived through the day. They were getting very active and seemed to actually crawl all around which was promising. I read on a great rehabber website that they could now be transferred to a larger area with a nest at one end, so that they could leave the nest and hop around. I transformed my spare XL dog crate into their new sanctuary. The crate is a fully enclosed plastic type with very small grade wire front door, not a cage type. They seemed to love their new residence and came to sit at the door and peek out. Considering they were the size of tangerines at this point, it was kind of adorable.

Two days after they were transferred, I woke up in the morning and headed down to the kitchen to heat their breakfast. To my horror, I saw that neither bunny was in the crate. I rummaged through their nest, nothing. In a panic, I began to tear the living room apart. After about half an hour, I found one of the buns sitting under my couch, perfectly fine. My fiance continued the search as I fed the wanderer her breakfast. After two hours more, I had to get to work and so I told Rob that once he finds the second one, to call me and I would give him instructions on how to feed him. Sadly, he was never found. Even the dogs haven't sniffed him out and it makes me question if he got out of the house somehow, or if he ever existed at all. It has been days, and there is no sign of him. I hate to say it, but I'm certain he would be starting to smell by now, but nothing. I am currently going through each room inch by inch trying to find him.

I examined the dog crate and I still have no clue how they got out, and I likely never will. Regardless, the crate had proven itself to be useless in confining bunnies and so the final bunny was transferred to a big tupperware with a screen on top. The feedings continued and she started to munch on the hay in her nest. She doubled in size and started to popcorn around. After a meal, she'd curl up next to my heart where she could be warm, and she'd sleep deeply. I began to feel confident that she'd thrive, as she was the biggest of the three and had a healthy appetite, and was essentially starting to wean herself without getting diarrhea, the number one cause of death for rehabilitated cottontail babies.

And then last night, I got home from work and she was laying on her side, unable to move. I knew right away that she was on her way out, and so I held her to my heart like I had done so many times in the last week and spoke to her. It was only when she was gone that I let myself cry. Rob took her to a beautiful wildlife sanctuary nearby as I scrubbed her nesting container clean.

It only lasted a short time, and their deaths were practically inevitable, but these little creatures touched my heart deeply and they will be mourned. I just pray that I never ever have to care for baby cottontails again.
 

MarisaAndToby

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This story made me tear up :(

So sorry to hear, but it says so much about your character and the type of person you are to have done all that you did for those 3 little ones. You at least gave them a chance at life which they absolutely would not have had otherwise.

Thank you for doing what you did, you're an incredible person :hearts::pray:
 

nermal71

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It is sad :( Did you wear rubber gloves when handling them? I do not remember what it is called but there is a disease that humans carry that we can give to baby wild rabbits and it is fatal. Years ago we had a dog that got the mama wild rabbit and we tried to hand raise the babies....it ended as your situation did. We later found out from a local wild life center that it was probably because we did not wear rubber gloves. You did an awesome thing in trying to help these darling buns...but the minute that woman picked them up the damage was probably done. There was nothing you could have done....big hugs to you for trying....oh and here is one for you to smile about.....we did this one time with baby skunks....yes I said skunks. After live trapping a skunk from under our porch we found 4 babies. Animal control told me if they came to get them they would euthanize them. So my brother and I hand raised them and released them.
 

nermal71

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It is sad :( Did you wear rubber gloves when handling them? I do not remember what it is called but there is a disease that humans carry that we can give to baby wild rabbits and it is fatal. Years ago we had a dog that got the mama wild rabbit and we tried to hand raise the babies....it ended as your situation did. We later found out from a local wild life center that it was probably because we did not wear rubber gloves. You did an awesome thing in trying to help these darling buns...but the minute that woman picked them up the damage was probably done. There was nothing you could have done....big hugs to you for trying....oh and here is one for you to smile about.....we did this one time with baby skunks....yes I said skunks. After live trapping a skunk from under our porch we found 4 babies. Animal control told me if they came to get them they would euthanize them. So my brother and I hand raised them and released them.
 

plasticbunny

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Thank you to everyone for the support and caring. Today, we finally found the missing baby. It was extremely unpleasent and it reminded us of the three little angels we failed to save.
 

Snagliph

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You did an amazing things trying to save these guys, and though you lost them you did remarkably well. I think that perhaps we can all learn from your experiences. Certainly if I ever have to rescue wild bunnies I will know to wear gloves. Not that I plan to remove wild bunnies from their nest of course, but living on a farm I know my cats/dogs have gotten into nests on occassion.
 

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