My dog and baby rabbit. Help.
April 17, 2021 7:37 AM   Subscribe

I let my two small dogs into the backyard and didn't pay attention to them for about five minutes. When I went looking for them, one had a baby rabbit between his paws. I don't think it was in his mouth, but might have been, because he really likes toys and spent his first three years in a puppy mill without much interaction with the world, and probably thought it was a toy or at least didn't realize he would be hurting it. The baby rabbit was not obviously injured.

So, I scooped up the one dog, and when I did that the rabbit jumped away. I put both dogs in the house and went back out to check. The baby rabbit found some refuge behind a bush. Shaking a lot, but not necessarily injured. I left it there. Because it's a fenced yard but rabbits can come and go, and hopefully it lives nearby or its mother will find it? I mean, unless it was dropped by a huge bird of prey or something which, no, we don't really have those and it seemed shaken but unharmed. We have some local outdoor cats in the neighborhood but I've never seen one near my house and definitely not in the yard.

So this was the right thing, right? To leave it in the yard? It's under a bush near a sort of patio area with several bushes. I really hope a rabbit family doesn't live in this yard because the dogs go out a lot. I won't let them out unsupervised for a few days. Though luckily one dog was distracted by a gross old buried bone and didn't interact with the rabbit.

But the other (goofy, relatively harmless Havanese) would like to find and play with it again every time he goes out, is my guess. So I am worried about that in addition to worrying if I've just left baby rabbit defenseless to certain death by predators. All suggestions welcome.
dog tax (FB sorry)
posted by Glinn to Pets & Animals (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: That was fine. Probably it will leave but you may need to wait quite a while now that it's full daytime, if its mom has to come back for it she won't be back until dusk. Or it may be too stressed and die, which means you'll need to check before you let them out again. Depending on how "baby" it was, the nest could be in your yard and there are others, and they are camouflaged so they're very hard to find. A lot of people turn up nests while mowing.

Dogs are predators, and even when they're not terribly urgent (or talented) predators they're still going to mess with something small, living, and interesting. This is part of the deal you make when you choose to live with them. They're going to kill things sometimes, and there's no way to rabbit-proof (or bird, squirrel, possum, snake, etc etc) your yard. Nature, red in tooth and claw.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:47 AM on April 17, 2021 [14 favorites]

Best answer: There's probably a nest in your yard or just outside it. One piece of evidence favoring it being okay is the fact that you didn't mention any screaming, which you definitely would have heard. Since it wasn't obviously injured enough to dispatch it, I don't know what else you could have done. I would just go outside with the dogs the next couple of times and see if there's an area of obvious interest and if you find a nest, well then you'll know you have a nest and can figure out how to keep the dogs away.
posted by HotToddy at 7:48 AM on April 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

If no teethmarks and no blood, I wouldn't worry about it. Presumably your dog didn't bit the bunny too hard. Else, it's just the way nature works.

You MAY want to consider a wire-mesh fence to prevent the bunnies from getting through... Just saying.
posted by kschang at 8:58 AM on April 17, 2021

Best answer: Agreeing with the above that (depending on where you were) you probably would have heard if the rabbit was injured. It probably froze instinctively and I imagine the dog might have thought of a puppy before prey and just carried it out to look at/play with. You did the right thing in leaving it alone.

If I were you I'd do a search of the yard alone and see what you can find in terms of nests or possible points of entry/exit into the yard. I would bet the dog goes straight for the last place he saw the baby bunny the next time you let him out, so it would be good to check if you don't want to witness what might happen there.

If you do want to bunny proof your yard, wire mesh is good as kschang suggests, but you have to bury it a good couple of feet into the ground to stop anything burrowing underneath, so it's up to you if you want to make that type of investment.

I believe wild rabbits in the US are fairly low risk in terms of what a nest might transmit to your pups in terms of disease or pests, but I would keep an eye on them for fleas and ticks anyway, especially if they're going in and out of the bushes where rabbits might be hanging out.
posted by fight or flight at 9:11 AM on April 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

i found a nest in my yard last year and had to do a bunch of research bc it was where i let my dogs out. mine were Baby babies, eyes still closed, and basically i couldn't move them or disturb the area for a couple weeks because [unclear highly increased likelihood of death i can't find again]. presumably you won't have to wait that long if yours is already mobile, but i'd say leaving it where it was is the right thing to do.

if you do find a nest, you can lay some string over it and see if it gets moved to check if the mom is still coming. i peeked inside every couple days to see when the babies had left and it was safe to let my dogs out again.

i also remember reading rabbits do like yards with dogs bc the dogs keep different predators away, which sucks for us. i just try to keep a good awareness of the yard now before i let them off leash
posted by gaybobbie at 9:16 AM on April 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

If you find a suspected nest site or entry/exit point, you can sprinkle some flour on the ground in the area and hope it doesn't rain. The presence or absence of footprints a day or two hence will tell you a lot.
posted by DrGail at 9:52 AM on April 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

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