We have had a small number of wild rabbits handed in to us over the years, for example where their nest has been dug up and destroyed, or their mother killed, or they've been brought in by someones cat etc. Where we are able to minimise human contact, most will maintain their survival instincts and can be released back in to the wild, though occasionally some have long term health problems (like missing teeth) or on rare occasions the nursing has been so hands-on that they become too accustomed to humans and effectively become domestic themselves. Our friend Minty, pictured below, is currently undecided as to which way she wants to go...
I say small number. Over the 5+ years volunteering here I'd seen maybe a dozen come in, then a few months ago we suddenly had 12 come in the same week. So young they were that they needed syringe feeding milk, so we were a little worried that, should they survive, they would become too attached to Caroline and lose their wild ways. Especially this chap.
We are lucky enough to have a good and fairly local contact for releasing onto private land in a relatively (as much as it can be) safe part of the countryside. This is a centre that specialises in taking in sick and injured wild animals, including rabbits, until they are well enough to return to the wild, so they are very skilled and experienced. So as soon as we felt our little group of 12 were ready, off we went. Things didn't go exactly to plan however. Here was the first release attempt a few weeks back...
They wouldn't leave the carrier and when Caroline lifted a couple of them out they just jumped onto her lap. So in agreement with our expert colleagues from the centre, after a short distraction rounding up the one little bun who decided to venture out a couple of feet just to sit under a tree, we packed them all back into the carrier and took them back to the Rescue.
Well here we are, several weeks on and more grown up, and they really were ready to move out. So yesterday I am pleased to say that they were collected and taken back to the countryside to return to their natural home.
We will miss their strange ways. One time they went missing and were found squashed between the back of their hutch and the aviary wall several feet off the ground like little bunny-ninjas, trying to avoid detection. Another time when I had broken my usual routine and fed their neighbours before them, I returned with their food to find a group of them waiting in a row, presumably having thought when they heard me leave that I had already left the snacks and not expected me to return. It doesn't sound much, but when you would normally just not see them at all it was a very odd experience seeing 5 properly wild bunnies seemingly waiting in a line. But much as we will miss them, of course we are happy that they have returned to their natural habitat.
May you live long and exciting lives, little ones.