If you come across a cottontail nest the best thing you can do for the survival of babies is to
LEAVE THE NEST ALONE! If the nest is in tact, if the babies look plump and are nestled snuggle next to each other LEAVE THEM ALONE! The nest is a shallow indentation lined with the grass and fur from the mother rabbit. Baby cottontails are very hard to raise and a great percentage die. Only about 10% of the babies survive when their mothers do not raise them. A nest may look abandoned but this is usually not the case. The mother rabbit returns to the nest for around 5 minutes only once or twice a day and will not come to the nest if humans are in the area. You should never expect to see the mother rabbit. A test to use to see if the mother is visiting the nest is to lay a pattern of small twigs over the nest, wait 24 hours then check to see if the twigs have been moved. Even though still very small a young rabbit of about 4 inches in his natural sitting position, ears erect, fully furred and weighing 5 ounces or more is capable of caring for it’s self and does not need help.
Wild rabbits don’t make good pets. They are wild and have wild instincts. They don’t trust humans and can never be tamed.If you find that the rabbits are in need of help put them in a box with soft toweling, keep them warm and get them to a rehab center ASAP. Do not try to feed a baby as this can harm the rabbit. An injured adult can be offered hay, grass and water.
Contact numbers for Wildlife Rehabilitators in California:
Orange County Wildlife Foundation (Westminster, CA)
Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center (Huntington Beach, CA)
Hope Wildlife (Corona, CA)
California Wildlife (Malibu, CA)
Wildlife Care of Ventura County, CA