Rehabilitation Animal of the Month: Cottontail Rabbit


By Freddy Moyano

BROWN COUNTY – It’s common to see baby wild animals outdoors in the spring, and when the little offspring set off on their own, danger sometimes sets in.

It’s history with this month’s rehabilitation animal of the month, a seven-day-old cottontail rabbit – who was brought to the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary after receiving cuts following an attack of crow.

Curator Lori Bankson said the eastern cottontail rabbits are a big picture of the busy spring seasons at the sanctuary.

“It’s the most popular mammal we have,” Bankson said. “We get around 2,500 mammals every year and the majority are rabbits. We’ve been getting them (constantly) for a month here at the Wildlife Sanctuary.

She said one of the main reasons they have them at such a young age as this month’s pet is that they are released by their mothers at just two weeks old to fend for themselves.

“This one was attacked by a crow,” Bankson said. “(A family) saw it and luckily brought it to us. It’s just a few cuts that we were able to heal, by feeding him. He is doing quite well. »

eastern cottontail rabbit

Showing a small bruise apparent under his chin, this pint-sized kit has been at the sanctuary for about two weeks.

“When people bring them in, not everyone knows exactly what they are,” Bankson said, referring to their dark, more vole-like coloration.

She said they nest in snow, rain, heat and all kinds of Wisconsin weather.

Bankson said the babies stay in their shallow nest at ground level for only 10 to 14 days. “When the weather is good, people go to their yard and find them easily,” she said.

Bankson said this little rabbit was paired with another rabbit, who is about five days older, who was brought to the sanctuary after being found by a dog in a local yard.

Bankson said these rabbits are given a very special formula made for rabbits.

“What we do is (tube feed them) chew (hay) into their stomachs,” she said, noting that the feeding process becomes very stressful at their young age. “People think they can have cat formula or dog formula, but they don’t do well.”

Bankson said they would receive food in their stomachs twice a day for about two weeks.

She said these kits will soon be able to feed themselves on greenery and hay on their own.

“If (baby rabbits are) found, it’s good for people to bring them to us so that we can mostly feed them, rehabilitate them and release them back into the wild,” Bankson said.

Cottontail rabbits start breeding at a very young age, as early as two or three months old.

Their gestation period is between 25 and 28 days.

These rabbits can have between one and seven litters each year, on average three or four litters per year, with each litter containing between one and 12 babies, with the average being five.

Adopt a kit

Bankson said they ideally keep rabbit kits in groups of two to eight per cage.

She said a kit’s time in the shrine’s observation building is usually a few days, depending on their age when they arrive, but they can usually be released between 15 and 21 days.

“We have people signing up and giving us permission to release rabbits into their yards,” Bankson said.

Those interested in doing so can find the release form at

“We have a big program (dedicated to building site adoption), which is very successful,” Bankson said.


Bankson said February’s animal, the female barred owl who was most likely hit by a car, is doing well and should be released in early June.

She said the snowy owl, evidenced in March, was starting to fly and should be released in July or August.

“We monitor weather and migration patterns,” Bankson said. “We have six months from the Ministry of Natural Resources, so technically she can stay here until August. We don’t want to rush the release.

The monthly Rehabilitation Animal of the Month series is a partnership between the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary (BBWS) and aims to highlight the sanctuary’s many animals and its efforts to rehabilitate its fluffy patients and release them back into the wild.


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