Friday night we had a bit of an adventure.
My daughter called me into the front room because one of our dogs, Dango, had something–Athena thought it was a lizard. Turns out it was a baby…something. It can be hard to tell with the very young unless you are particularly familiar with them. Mammal at least. It didn’t seem to be hurt. Dango had a very “soft mouth”. The critter was active and “squirmy”. Very young. Eyes still closed. I thought maybe a baby squirrel so I take it out figuring to put it up in the maple tree in the back yard presuming that’s where it came from.
When I got out there, and I was trying to put the baby up in the crotch of a limb so that it would be relatively safe from the dogs and so mommy squirrel could find it, I took a closer look and decided it didn’t really look like a squirrel. Rabbit maybe? Anyway, I turned to head back into the house and Dango was over by a spot on the ground in “play bow.” I came over and, lo if there wasn’t another one. I rooted around a bit and find a group of baby animals, five in all. They’re in a shallow pit, about 6″ deep and maybe about 8″ across. I guessed mommy rabbit established a nest here and dropped her kits.
Normally, I’d simply leave them alone. That mommy wasnowhere to be seen didn’t mean anything. As I understand it, rabbits generally leave the nests alone for extended periods, coming back just a couple of times a day. However, enclosed back yard with three dogs? No, that wasn’t going to work. Indeed, I couldn’t, and can’t, figure out how mommy was able to make the nest and drop her kits without at least being chased off by the dogs.
And, frankly, if the dogs hadn’t gotten mommy, it really was just a matter of time. My best thought was to move them to outside the fenced yard and hope that mommy rabbit could find them later. My daughter, however, wanted to take them to an animal rescue so…okay. I asked her to find one and she searched, makes several calls and getting “office is closed” until she found one in Martinsville (about a 45-50 minute drive).
So I sighed. We hopped in the car and headed down there with a box containing five baby bunnies. We handed them over to the person at the wildlife rescue, explaining the situation–leaving them where they were was just really untenable. Dango wasn’t really being predatory, just playing but a 70 lb Aussie playing with a 3 or four ounce (if that) bunny… He’d end up killing it without intending to.
I’m still trying to figure out how they got there in the first place. Right in the middle of the back yard, in a nest that mommy rabbit took some time to make, including using loose fur as insulation. How did the dogs, who have free access to the back yard, not interfere with this operation? It wasn’t tucked in a brush pile of in bushes or otherwise where there might be some shelter/protection from the dogs but right there in the open yard.
Normally I’m all for that whole “circle of life” thing. But here? Given the location nothing would be served by leaving them. No fox or what not is going to miss a meal because these particular prey animals weren’t there. The main threat to them would be our dogs and our dogs are well fed. They don’t need to eat baby bunnies to survive. So if they survive to be released (I figure the odds aren’t good, but we did what we could) they might end up in a foxes or hawks gullet soon after that release. Or they might not. But in the end I didn’t do this for the bunnies.
I did it for my daughter.