People often happen upon wild, baby animals in their yard or in the wilderness. While it's easy to automatically assume that the parent abandoned the baby, that's not always true. But sometimes, people feel they must protect a defenseless creature. If you discover a seemingly abandoned baby jackrabbit, it's probably best to leave it alone until you determine that the mother truly abandoned it. If you decide rescuing it is the best option, educate yourself regarding proper care techniques.
Gently pinch the loose skin on the back of the rabbit's neck. If the skin forms a tent, the rabbit is suffering from dehydration.
Rub the genital area of the rabbit gently with a warm, wet cloth to stimulate urination. Observe the urine. Brown and gritty urine signals dehydration.
Arrange soft, clean towels in a box for a nest. As long as the room temperature is 65 to 70 degrees, the rabbit should be comfortable. If the room is colder, place a heating pad--on low-- under approximately half the area covered by towels so the rabbit can move close to or away from the heat as needed.
Feed the baby jackrabbit goat's milk in an eye dropper or twice a day. Hold it upright and point the dropper to the bottom of its mouth. Allow the rabbit to swallow between each drop to prevent aspiration.
Stick to these feeding guidelines from The Indiana House Rabbit Society:
Newborn to 1 Week: 2 to 2-1/2 cc/ml twice daily.
1 to 2 weeks: 5 to 7 cc/ml twice daily
2 to 3 weeks: 7 to 13 cc/ml twice daily
3 to 7 weeks: 13 to 15 cc/ml each feeding, twice daily
Jack rabbits should be weaned at 7 to 9 weeks. Replace the goat's milk with tiny pieces of cut up apple or banana. Place the fruit in a small dish and allow the rabbit to eat as desired.
Provide oat hay, Timothy hay and/or alfalfa hay to the rabbit once its eyes open. At about 9 weeks, it should be ready for release back into the area where it was found. This is best done at dusk or dawn.
Before caring for a baby jackrabbit, place some small twigs in a tic-tac-toe pattern over the top of the nest. Wait 24 hours, and check to see if the nest has been disturbed. If it has, do not move the baby. Its mother is likely still around.
Avoid overfeeding, as it can lead to fatal intestinal disease.
The longer you keep the rabbit after weaning, the more difficult it will be for it to adapt to living on its own in the wild.
Based in Texas, Cynthia Measom has been writing various parenting, business and finance and education articles since 2011. Her articles have appeared on websites such as The Bump and Motley Fool. Measom received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.