Helping a baby cottontail get back on the bunny trail

Baby wild rabbit with very large ears
This wild baby rabbit was found with signs of neurological trauma, but with help from the Sanctuary rehab team, he’s about to return to the great outdoors.
By Sarah Thornton

One day in early April, a group of good-hearted people spotted a tiny baby bunny in the grass of a golf course — not an unusual sight on its own because springtime means lots of wild babies coming out into the world. But this little bunny looked like he was in distress. His head was shaking, he was running in circles and the people who found him thought he may have been hit by a golf cart, resulting in a head injury. But, luckily for the little cottontail, these people knew just what to do.

They contacted Wild Friends, the state and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitation center at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, and were asked to bring the bunny straight in. He was so young that he still needed formula, and feeding was tricky with the way his head shook back and forth.

“We were concerned he would not be able to eat on his own with his head shaking so much,” says Lauren Ross of the rehab team. “But once he started eating lettuce, he would dive right in and snatch a piece on the fly.”

He was put on anti-inflammatory medication and received a round of antibiotics in case it was brain swelling that was causing his neurological symptoms. And, slowly but surely (and with a few more rounds of medication), he started to improve. As he got bigger, the head shake calmed down. In a few months it had gone away completely and the only time he ran in circles was if he got scared. Soon, even that went away, and when he wanted to hide, he could run straight into cover.

Now, he’s moved into a large outdoor enclosure where human contact is kept to a minimum, and he is learning to forage and keep an eye on the sky for predators. And in just a few more weeks, this once-wobbly rabbit will be ready to venture out into the wild, healthy and free.

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