Reader view: What to know about ‘rescuing’ baby cottontails

It’s baby cottontail time! In past years, some well-meaning residents have kidnapped perfectly healthy baby cottontails because they think that the baby cottontails are in distress when they are not.

The babies are then taken to local wildlife shelters, which will most likely euthanize them because the Eastern cottontail is considered an invasive species. So instead of “saving“ these healthy babies, these uninformed “rescuers” are probably causing their early demise.

Rabbits are crepuscular creatures, so Mama Cottontail will only visit her nest at dawn and dusk, and will stay away the rest of the time to try to avoid leading predators back to her babies. It’s perfectly normal to find the babies on their own in the nest during the day. If they’re a little bit older, they might even be wandering a few feet away from the nest.

If you find a nest of baby cottontails in your yard, and you are afraid of your dog or cat killing them, you can set up a little garden fence around the nest to keep larger animals out. The barrier just needs holes big enough for the mom to get in and out and feed her babies, and for the babies themselves to leave once they are old enough to wander out of the nest. Feel free to contact me if you need guidance on setting up a dog- or cat-proof fence around a cottontail nest in your yard.

Otherwise, here are some pictures of healthy baby cottontails that are fine and do not need any human intervention. There are also pictures of baby cottontails who actually do need to be rescued because Mama Cottontail probably didn’t make it home to feed her babies.

Sabrina Connaughton and I both live in Edmonds and are active in animal rescue locally, so please check in with either of us before intervening to “rescue“ any baby cottontails you might find.

Jenna Nand:
Sabrina Connaughton:

— By Jenna Nand


  1. Bunny Love! Well I did have several litters it seems last summer. The little baby bunnies I saw were always with a bigger bunny. They were it seemed not afraid but I never tried to pick one up. I wanted to but was afraid it might be awfully delicate. It seems I have 3 litters a year. I guess their nest is in that garden somewhere ha. I don’t look for it. I do watch sometimes for predator type birds so I can yell RUN BUNNY RABBIT. I am still doing the clicking sound with my tongue trying to get a language going with the bunnies. I love these bunnies. And yes they are already eating a few newly popped perennials! Good thing they are so cute haha.

    1. They are adorable! The cottontails do tend to snack on certain plants in your garden. To deter them, you can set up little garden fences around plants that you want to protect and can also leave some of the weeds, especially dandelions, in your flowerbeds as snacks for the bunnies.

      If you have some corners of your yard where you would be willing to allow little brush piles to remain, that provides natural protection from predators for small prey animals like the cottontails. They are also great for pollinators like mason bees to build their nests!

      Our urban wildlife is magnificent and deserves to be protected!

      1. Thank you, Jenna Nand. Yeah I am just sharing with them. I do have a few iron pieces of fencing in the front which does deter them a bit. This garden of mine is so old and now dense that even the many vines on vine on vine give great underneath protection. I think they have a couple spots under some 30 yo junipers too. I love them!! The only reason I haven’t adopted one and brought it in is you said not a good idea haha. SO I am listening to your words of wisdom. I expect babies to be arriving very soon. Its the little things in life that make me the happiest. I have lots of brush and Lichen Lichen Lichen. I left all my leaves in there this winter. Now I am turning the soil. Its like river bank soil here. You could dig it with a spoon. Having fencing and keeping it closed does seem to help I have never had a coyote or strangers dog etc come in here. Now a kitty will on occasion but its been years now since a cat visited.

  2. Nah . . . I’m hoping the bobcats, owls and coyotes that occasion my property will take good care of these pests.

      1. I prefer the predators. The non-native rabbits, not so much. The deer can be pests, but it is enjoyable watching them lounge on the lawn.

        1. Well John that is the beauty of freedom and choice. I like the predators too. The deer are beautiful and they are nice to look at. Don’t get too friendly though as they do have a tendency to run in front of cars and right thru the windshield. BUT hey they are welcome here. Fenced areas keep them out I think. Nature is such a wonderful calming free gift to all of us. Enjoy! Ok I will call Harvey and tell him to give ya a break. Ha

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