General Information About
Eastern Cottontails

Rabbit Rescue receives numerous calls each spring regarding wild rabbits (Easter Cottontails). Cottontails are NOT the same genetically as our domestic house bunnies.

What should you do if you find a baby cottontail? Many people who find baby rabbits outside, do not see the mom and automatically assume that they have been abandoned. Usually this is not the case. AN ABSENT MOTHER IS NORMAL! As rabbits are crepuscular (most active at dusk and dawn), the mom usually comes around late at night to nurse and feed her babies. The milk is very rich, and, unlike kittens who need to eat every 3-4 hours, bunnies only nurse for a few minutes each day; usually once in the early morning, and then once at night. Their preferred nursing time is between midnight and 5 am. Average nursing time is only 5 minutes.

If you suspect a rabbit has abandoned her nest, at dusk, take two sticks and cross them in an X over the nest. If they are disturbed in the morning, the mother has likely returned. If you find a nest that has been destroyed, you can move it or rebuild it to a safer place within 10 feet of its original location. By removing baby bunnies from a nest, when there is in fact a mother rabbit around for them, it greatly reduces their chances of survival. Over 90% of cottontails will die if an individual takes to raise it (usually of fright, or improper feeding – overfeeding, underfeeding, or bloat).

Wild rabbits are weaned at 3-4 weeks of age. By 100 grams they are on their own (and can be released by wildlife rehab centres if in captivity). If they are not injured or orphaned, the best thing you can do for them is to leave them alone!

WARNING: Cottontails are wild animals. Not only will they never be happy kept in captivity, but they are a Provincially protected species in Ontario, and it is illegal to keep them.


Further Reading


Who to call

If you find an injured or orphaned wild rabbit, or other animal, call: Toronto Wildlife Centre; 416 631 0662 or OSPCA Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre; 705 534 4350. Many wildlife centres will allow you to participate in the release of an animal you brought to them when they are ready to go. It’s a very rewarding experience!

If you’re outside the area check out this website to find your nearest wildlife rehabilitator:

Cottontail Rehabbers in Ontario

Southern Ontario:

Toronto, Toronto Wildlife Centre,, 416-631-0662

Essex County (Amherstburg) ,, 519-736-8172,

Haldminand County (Nanticoke), Beacon of Light Wildlife Centre, 905-776-4410,

Ottawa County (North Gower) Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary,, 613-258-9480.

Stittsville (near Ottawa), Selena Walker, Volunteer Wildlife Network, (home based rahab) H) 613-831-8105, W) 613-722-6521 x 6657

Welland (Niagara Peninsula), House of Wildlife Rehab Centre, 905-735-9556,

Southwestern Ontario:

Elgin County (St. Thomas), Another chance Wildlife Rehabilitation, 519-868-1937,