You let your dog out in the yard, and he seems overly interested in one particular spot. You find a nest of baby bunnies. They have been licked, but otherwise seem OK. What do you do?
A – Take them inside and contact a wildlife rescuer. Now that your dog has touched them, they have his scent, and the mother will abandon them.
B – Take them inside and raise them yourself. How hard can it be? You’d always wanted a pet rabbit.
C – Leave them in the nest, and keep your dog on a leash for the next few days until they are old enough to leave the nest on their own.
Rumors and old wive’s tales tell us that option A is the best, but it’s actually the worst! (Well, OK, option B is probably the worst.) It is a complete myth that a mother of any wild animal will abandon its young because something touched it. But you watched for hours and didn’t see mom, so they have to be abandoned, right?
Mom is there! She is just smart and not revealing herself. You are a threat, and she’s playing it safe. Guess how often a mother rabbit needs to nurse her young. Every 3 hours? 8 hours? How about every 24 hours! Yep, mom doesn’t spend much time in the nest, as it draws attention to the nest and also her babies. So no, you won’t see mom come back, but she will!
Besides kidnapping babies, what other things do well-meaning people do that harms wildlife? Feeding!
Moldy bread can actually be toxic to wildlife, especially birds. Certain kinds of molds can contain toxins that can harm the liver and digestive tracts of birds and other wildlife. If you don’t want to feed it to your pet, don’t give it to wildlife!
OK, so how about just stale bread? No mold, just too dry to put in the kid’s lunchbox. This is harmful as well. How? Wild animals need food for fuel. Everything they eat needs to provide nutrients like fat and protein, as well as vitamins and minerals. Because wild animals have to hunt or forage for food, every morsel counts. So, many people think they are helping out the animals by providing “free” food. Problem is, these items are often white bread or crackers, which have no nutritional value for the animal. After filling up on bread, these animals then will forage or hunt less, because they feel full. By not eating the food they were designed to eat, they will develop deficiencies in nutrients if fed by humans long term.
So next time you’re at the park and the not-so-wild goose approaches you, resist. Take a cute picture.
Next time you find a baby bird, look for its nest.
Next time you find baby bunnies that are not bleeding and obviously injured, leave them be.
You’ll help wildlife so much more by letting them be wild!
Web-DVM guest blogger Dr. Karen Louis is a practicing small animal veterinarian. See more of her articles at her blog at VetChick.com