Rescuing Wild Animals

When I was twenty-four, I took a walk through a meadow near my home. Where the meadow ended, a few small trees had cropped up here and there. Some small dogwoods were in the mix. I thought I spotted a trillium. As I bent over to get a better look, I braced myself by grabbing on to one of the lower branches of a nearby dogwood. It wasn't a trillium. I should have known, the area was too exposed for trillium.


Standing back upright, I let go of the branch. It left my hand with a spring-like action. From the corner of my eye, I saw something falling to the ground. I looked to the ground and saw two baby mourning doves. Except for the beginnings of flight feathers on their wings, they were completely naked. Knowing the mother would not likely tend to them if I put them back into what was left of the nest, I brought them home and raised them.

I was their new mother. They were with me twenty-four hours a day. I took them to work with me. Later, when they could go a bit longer without food, I came home on morning break, lunch, and afternoon break to feed them. They grew to young adults in no time.

I made a large outdoor cage for them. They were quite contented, for a while. Realizing they needed flight to strengthen their muscles, I began to release them for a couple of hours a day. They would return soon. They had gotten hungry and knew there was plenty of their favorite seed in the cage.

Later, the female was slow to come back. Some days, she didn't. So, I kept her caged for a while, still letting the male come and go as he liked. She appeared stressed. She paced back and forth in the cage. She looked at me as if she was trying to tell me something, but I couldn't figure out what. All I had to do was listen.

After three or four days of watching her in total misery, I heard something. It was the mating call of a male mourning dove. It wasn't her brother; this time, he was in the cage with her. Each time the dove made his call, my caged female increased the rate of her pacing.

Without a word being spoken, I heard the male say, 'Sweetheart, where are you? It is time. Time to build our nest. Time to start our family. Where are you? Without a word being spoken, I looked at my female and heard her say, ' Love, I am prisoner. I must come to you, but I cannot escape these bonds. I try so hard'.

Without further ado, I opened the cage, kissed my little one goodbye, and with outstretched hand, I gave her freedom. I never saw her again. The old saying goes 'If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it's yours forever. If it doesn't, it never was'. She never was mine.

The male is a different story. He stayed for months, coming and going as he pleased. He stayed until I moved away. He was extremely jealous, not even wanting me to stand close to another person. There is another whole story about this bird and our friendship, Very interesting. Maybe another time.


It was spring. Everything was beautiful, well, almost everything. The robins had returned. There were many nests and many empty robin egg shells littering my back yard. Baby robins seemed to be everywhere. And along with the little babies, there were spots of baby feathers here and there. The neighborhood cats were gorging themselves on this once a year treat. It seemed no baby robin was safe.

While out one day, I spotted a baby robin to my left, sitting quietly while waiting for its mother to bring food. To my right, I saw a cat. It was eyeing the baby robin while all hunkered down, ready to pounce at just the right time.

If another baby robin was eaten, would it really matter? It would matter to this little fella. What a terrible way to go. I quickly ran to him, scooped him up and carried him inside.

I raised that robin. He went through many jars of chicken and beef baby food. In time, he was fat and sassy, sporting a brilliant red breast. I began to let him fly freely and bring him in just at night.

This bird didn't seem jealous. He would sit quietly on my shoulder while I talked with neighbors. Even so, he would never sit on the shoulders of someone else. I would put him on their shoulders. He would stay just an instant and then return to mine.

I would go out when it was time to feed him. All I had to do was call, 'Robbie'! Seemingly, from out of nowhere, he would land on my shoulder.

One day I called, 'Robbie'! He didn't come. I called, again. He didn't come. Sadly, I had to listen. Without a word being spoken and from a distance, I heard, 'Thank you for saving me from the cat. Thank you for raising me and being my friend. I will always remember you, kindly. But I am a young robin. I must live a robin's life. I must find a mate and continue my own kind. As much as I love you, my future must be without you. Good bye, Doug'.


And then, there was the conversation between Mr. and Mrs. house finch. I had hung one of those desk organizers that hold paper clips and such, under a porch awning. It seemed ideal for a finch nest, and it was positioned where I could take pictures of the development of the babies.

Sure enough, it was spotted by Mrs. house finch. She fell in love with it. Yes, it would do nicely. She called to Mr. house finch. When he came, she said, 'Look, honey! I've found the perfect place, just look.'

Mr finch said, 'Yes, it's nice, but I think we should build under the corner of the window awning, just as we did last year. Come look. I've already started the foundation.'

They both flew to the window awning. Mrs. finch agreed it was nice, but she had her heart set on the desk organizer. She said, 'Before we decide, take another look at the nice basket. They both flew to the desk organizer. 'It's so sturdy', she said. 'And such a nice change'.

'I don't know', he said. 'It's too out in the open. I don't think its safe'. The two made two or three more trips together, back and forth to the different sites, each trying to convince the other, their site was best.

As with Humans, so it is with birds. Quite often, the male, though not necessarily in the right, will get his way. The nest was built under the corner of the window awning.

I don't know how Mrs. house finch felt about all this. I guess when her babies were born, the mother instinct prevailed and assuaged any disappointment she might have felt earlier.

We can hear with more than our ears. Without a word being spoken, I heard this entire conversation. I had never witnessed such personal dialogue between two animals. I had entered for a few moments, into the private world of another species. I was quite moved afterwards. And I pondered, 'Wonder if some 'higher', unseen species is looking into my world. One never knows, does one?

A lady friend had given me a Velux blanket for Christmas. I don't know how others did it, but I was unable to keep it on the bed. I lost a lot of sleep chasing that blanket throughout the night. Out of frustration, I stored the blanket in an out building. It would stay there until I found someone who could make use of it. I forgot about it.

Over time, the blanket deteriorated. All that was left was a net like lining. I thought, 'Well, good'. I will get some use out of the blanket after all. I'll use the net to keep the birds away from my strawberries. Strawberry season was over for that year. So, the net stayed on the outbuilding floor.

Some months later, while doing some weeding in the back yard, I kept hearing a tiny, mournful sound. It sounded like a baby kitten. I looked and looked and looked. I saw no baby kitten. The next day, I heard the sound again, but no kitten. Upon hearing the sound on the third day, I was determined I would find its source.

Remembering that in the past, cats had made the outbuilding a delivery room and nursery, I decided to look in there. Sure enough, there was the source of the sound. A tiny kitten just a few days old and at least three days without food was there, starving to death.

(I know what happened. The mother cat had her litter in that building. True to a cat's nature, she decided to move the kittens after a few days. There is a reason for this. When a female cat is in estrus, several males will attempt to mate with her. There are those who will not succeed. Often, one of those will return after the kittens are born. If he can, he will kill all the kittens. There are two reasons for this. One is that he will prevent another male cat's bloodline from continuing. The other is that by the mother cat not having any kittens to feed, she will come into estrus sooner, providing another chance for the murderous male to continue his bloodline).

The kitten was all entangled in the blanket netting. I'm sure the mother tried to free him and couldn't. With other hungry kittens placed elsewhere, she had no choice but to abandon him.

I rescued the kitten. He remained in a state of near starvation though I fed him several times a day. He had a rough time of it in my charge until I accepted the fact that kittens cannot tolerate cow's milk. They must have mother's milk or a special formula designed just for them. Once I started feeding him formula, he began to flourish and gained weight rapidly.

We were friends. We spent most all our time, together. We played together. I named him 'Felix'. When he was near grown, I let him spend more time outside. He was never one to stray, always staying close to home. A neighbor commented, 'Doug, that cat sure loves you. He won't go far from you, and he won't have anything to do with anyone else'.

Then, he was missing for two days. Nowhere to be found. I came home from grocery shopping and saw him standing near the back door. It was obvious. He was in pain and in fear. He looked me in the eye, and without a word being spoken, I heard him say, 'Doug, help me. Please help me'.

I sat the groceries aside and ran to him. I gently picked him up and took him inside. Once inside, I could see there had been serious damage to his front right leg. The wounds were so bad, I figured a dog had tried to kill him.

The leg did not appear to be broken, but there were two or three holes in it. I cleaned the wounds and dressed the leg. In a couple of days, I saw the wounds were weeping a pink fluid. I removed the dressing and was shocked. There were more holes. Felix was in a lot of pain. He would look at me, and without a word being spoken, I would hear him say, 'Help me, Doug. Please help me.'

By the third day, his entire leg was riddled with holes, and they were weeping, profusely. I have never heard of anything like this in my life. It was a sure thing, Felix would lose his leg. And at the rate the holes were forming, it was probably just a matter of days before they appeared elsewhere on his body. I never saw a cat suffer so much. Each time I looked at him, without a word being spoken, he looked into my eyes and I heard him say, ' Doug, please help me, I'm suffering. Please help me.'

Knowing he had only a few days left, and those days would be spent in horrible pain; I called the Animal Control Center. I explained the situation to them, making sure they understood how Felix was suffering. I asked them if they would put him to sleep. They said. 'Yes'.

I took Felix to the center. Those who examined him said they had never seen anything like it. They could only guess he was attacked by a dog and some necrotizing germ had entered the wounds. They agreed the cat should be put to sleep.

I said my goodbyes to Felix. And as I looked into his eyes for the last time, without a word being spoken, I heard him say; ' Thanks, Doug. Thank you for rescuing me when I was a little starving kitten. Thank you for raising me and being a good friend all the while. Thank you for all the nice evenings you put me in your lap and we would play for hours. I know my fate. I know the end is coming. Goodbye, Doug. Goodbye, my Friend.'

The Animals speak. Do you listen?

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In almost every case, it is illegal to keep a wild animal. If you find a baby animal, that you believe has been abandoned; leave it where it is, unless it is in clear danger. Keep a watch on it from a distance.

A wild raccoon looking up.

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

July 17, 2008

These rabbits were discovered by a dog! They appear unharmed by the dog but I brought them home just in case. They fit in the palm of my hand. What solid food do they start on? What do I feed them if they are not eating solid food?

Stella from WA


July 17, 20080 found this helpful


Just went through this myself a few months ago. You need the following:

1 can Kitten Replacement Formula - comes in small cans
small feeding syringe - looks just like the ones they give you shots with, but with no needle
Medium-sized bag of ALFALFA hay - if not, larger
a bag of Rabbit food pellets - get the bag that has alfalfa and various foods that they find in the wild
two tiny (1/4cup size) ceramic food bowls
Small bottle of Vita-Sol liquid vitamins
1 round Salt tablet

You won't be able to find most of this at WalMart. Try PetsMart or a feed store.

Keep them inside a pet carrier with a folded towel. Keep them inside your house, away from neighborhood animals. Outside animals WILL try to get to them.

You'll only need to feed the milk for a few days until they pick up their strength again and start to get a little chubby. But fill one of the bowls with the food pellets and fill the other with water and about 3 drops of Vita-Sol. Change the water daily.

Most important -
Wrap them in a towel for handling while you're feeding, to keep them from escaping and to catch the mess. And you will go through some messes with the milk! Number One goal - utmost caution when forcing milk into their mouth. You DON'T want milk coming through their noses. It will kill them. Hand-feeding them has to start with a drop at a time. Some will "get it" and begin to grab the nose of the syringe. You want to see them swallowing the milk. Another drop and another drop - gradually adding drops at a time until they finally get the hang of it and figure out what you're trying to do for them. You'll need to feed them milk twice a day.

As for their pellets and all, wild bunnies feed at night mostly. But you can feed them rinsed-off treats like a strawberry, lettuce, carrots that are shredded with a potato peeler. They'll need a piece of wood to sit on and twigs to chew on.

Wood is vital to rabbits. Their teeth never stop growing, just like cows horns. Chewing the wood keeps their teeth in check.

Clean the carrier and replace the towel every day.

Once they become too much for you to handle when trying to take them out to clean their cage - it's time for release - usually within a couple weeks! If you don't want trouble, you'll take them off and release them into a pasture or by a pond or lake.

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July 17, 20080 found this helpful

I am not sure about rabbits but I had baby squirrels that I bottle fed with canned kitten milk. You can get it at the co-op or Petsmart.

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July 17, 20080 found this helpful

I started using a dropper to give them milk but I got rabbit food once I realized they had teeth. I'm not sure how old rabbits are before they get teeth.

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July 17, 20080 found this helpful

We had the same thing happen, only our cat actually brought the baby bunny into us. We could never find the nest to put it back, but even if we could have found it, we would have left the nest alone so the mother rabbit would still be interested in her youngings. I'm sure she doesn't want the smell of human (or cat) all over her babies.

I'm surprise you didn't leave them be. The mom was probably scared away by the dog or she was out looking for food. (She would have come back to her little ones later on when "the coast was clear"). I thought we were all taught as children to leave nests alone & never leave our scent on newborn animals. But now that you have them, you are responsible for them. Go to any pet store or call a vet & ask what to feed them. You'll be up every 2 or 3 hours feeding them all night long. Plan on not getting any sleep & make sure they are kept warm. A heating pad is to hot, & a hot water bottle will work, but you'll need to keep changing it out with new warm water. Invest in a thermometer to make sure they aren't to hot or to cold.

If you keep them to long they will become dependant on you & will no longer be wild, & you'' have to find a home for them on Craig's list. If you decide to keep them as pets make sure they have their Rabies shot & are wormed etc.

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By Betty. (Guest Post)
July 17, 20080 found this helpful

Good luck.

Back in the 70's, we had a cat that raised a squirrel. I tried feeding him but he almost died. He was lifeless when I put him with our cat and her baby kittens, to see if he would nurse. He grabbed hold of her nipple and in just a few minutes he perked up. The cat mothered the squirrel just like she did her kittens and raised him.

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July 17, 20080 found this helpful

WeldrBrat had lots of great advice. A previous poster mentioned keeping them or giving them away on Craig's list... keeping the babies in captivity may be illegal in your state, as it is in mine. Wild rabbits do not thrive in captivity. That poster also had other well-meaning advice that is appropriate for other foundling animals but not for baby rabbits (for example, rabbit kittens do NOT need to be fed every few hours, and not at night, because they nurse only a few times a day, and they do not need supplemental heat unless unfurred and VERY young).

There may be a wild animal rescue in your area which could take them, or at least offer good advice. Contact your state wildlife resources agency and ask them if a foundling rescue is available. You will probably be chided for taking them from the wild. Mother animals do not abandon their young because of the scent of humans or dogs... they just wait for the intruder to leave the area before they return. And rabbit mothers only visit the nest a few times a day anyway, so what may seem abandoned is not.

Baby rabbits, incidentally, are not very apt to become overly dependent upon human caregivers and are very quick to revert to a wild state. It is actually difficult to keep them tame as they grow up!

I know that domestic rabbits are born with tiny little teeth, and suspect that wild rabbits are as well (although they are a different species). So this is not a good way to judge age. Without a photo, it is hard to know how old they are, and so it's also difficult to know what advice to give. Rabbits are very independent, and the little ones will be able to be released into the wild much sooner than you might think.

You describe the babies as being able to fit in the palm of your hand. A book I have on the care of foundlings says this about rabbits: "When they are still tiny enough to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand they will be making little forages away from the nest to eat clover and grass." This implies that your babies are almost old enough to fend for themselves. It goes on to say: "A young rabbit four inches in length in his natural sitting position is well able to forage for himself and should not be kept in captivity any longer." Since the age of your rabbits is in question, keep this in mind.

WeldrBrat's advice was so inclusive that there is not much to add about care. But I wanted to add one bit... depending on how young these babies are, they might need help eliminating waste. A cotton ball dipped in warm water will work... just use it in the same way that a mother rabbit would to "lick" the area, very gently. You will know if your babies need this attention if (A) you have not seen any urine or feces expelled since you got them, or {B} you do the procedure and they elminate quickly. This should be done several times a day, especially after feedings. Once they are eating solid food, they will not need this done for them. As a general rule, if their eyes are closed, they will need this help. If open, they will not.

Best of luck with their care, but keep in mind that they are not pets. I know it is easy to get attached to foundlings... I have raised and released possums and a fawn. They stole my heart, but I knew they belonged in the wild.

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July 18, 20080 found this helpful

I suggest finding a wildlife rehabber in your area. here is a lady that is a certified rehabber in the next county out of Baltimore. I have taken birds there.

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By Beth (Guest Post)
October 6, 20080 found this helpful

Five days ago, my brother hit a small rabbit with a weedeater on accident. The rabbit hid, but his dog found him, and my brother brought the rabbit to me. The skin on his back, left leg was peeled off down to the bone; from the 'elbow' to the tip of his tiny toes. I knew if I left him, he'd either get an infection, be caught by a bird of prey, or be eaten alive by ants (As ants were already on him, not 15 minutes after he was injured.) So, I brought him home, and put him in a box with a towel, disinfected and bandaged his foot. He's now in a large pet carrier with plain, shredded paper and alfalfa hay (mixed). I made him a "hole in the ground" out of an empty, clean oatmeal canister and put hay in that. I give him a choice of rabbit food (Pellets), Carrots, tomatoes, cabbage and lettuce. He's doing very well. His foot is healing amazingly and he's still quite tame. I realize that he may become more wild and, very well may, have to be released, but, for now I'm doing what I can. This is his foot:

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Can someone please tell me how to care for a baby rabbit? It is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and appears to be abandoned by it's mother.

By Joyce Lambert from Nokomis, AL


March 20, 20120 found this helpful

Try getting an eye dropper and fill it with baby formula to feed. Keep doing this until he can eat on his own. Keeping him warm as well. Try calling a vet for more advice.

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March 21, 20120 found this helpful

Baby rabbits should be fed Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR), which you can buy at pet stores, or sometimes even a local veterinarian's office. Because rabbit milk is the most caloric of all mammals, we add in one tablespoon of cream to each can of KMR. Unless you are familiar with and skilled at tube feeding babies, use an eye dropper or sterile oral syringe, which can be purchased at most pharmacies. Feed baby rabbits no more than twice a day.

Baby rabbits normally feed only once a day, but you're not mama and the KMR is not as caloric as rabbit milk. So if baby does not take in the total amount quoted below in one feeding, you may split the feedings in half, AM/PM - but no more frequently as it can cause severe gastrointestinal distress. Overfeeding is a leading cause of death in infant [domestic] rabbits.

If this is a wild rabbit, handle it ONLY during feedings and make sure to keep it in a quiet, safe, out-of-the-way area of your home, as excessive handling and human interaction can be extremely stressful and potentially fatal, and will lessen its chance or survival once released back into the wild.

Following is a guideline for the daily amount to feed a domestic or wild rabbit who will be approximately 5-6 pounds as an adult (average rabbit size). You can increase the amounts as needed for larger breeds. Remember, if the rabbit does not eat the full amount listed, feed the remainder later, but do not feed more than twice a day.

For the best results, go to your local health food store (GNC has this) and get a bottle of acidophilus. Ask for the capsules that have the "grainy stuff" inside (they are easier to mix than the "powdery stuff") and add it to the KMR at each feeding.

Using acidophilus in addition to KMR will greatly increase the baby rabbit's chance of survival, because it helps keep the bacterial balance in a baby's tummy adequate.

Age KMR Acidophilus
1 capsule = 1 cc
Newborn 5 cc 1/2 cc
1 week 10-15 cc 1/2 cc
2 weeks 26-30 cc 1 cc
3 AND 4 weeks, until weaned (you may wean at 4 weeks of age) 30 cc 1 cc

Baby rabbits feed from their mothers while lying on their backs. You may loosely wrap baby in a soft face cloth or hand towel and lay it on your lap or in the crook of your arm. If bunny will NOT eat this way, of course, do the best you can.

It is absolutely crucial to let the baby eat at it's own pace - especially if it is not suckling from you (i.e. if you are using a dropper or syringe to feed it...). If you squirt the liquid in too quickly you can aspirate (get liquid in) the lungs and the rabbit will suffocate.

After each feeding it is important to make the bunny defecate and urinate to keep the intestinal tract and urinary system running smoothly. Use a soft cloth or a cotton ball moistened with warm water and gently stroke from between the bunny's front legs all the way down over the anal area until the bunny starts producing stool and urine, and keep stroking until the bunny stops.

You are replicating the behavior of the mother rabbit who would lick her young to stimulate them to go to the bathroom (as well as to keep the nest clean). The stool will be soft and may be varying shades of green and yellow. Be sure to clean baby's mouth with a damp cloth or paper towel, so that no milk dries in the hair.

Baby rabbit eyes open at about 10 days of age. You may start introducing them to hay and pellets at this point, but no veggies or fruits yet. Just leave some hay and pellets in a corner of the box where the babies can easily get to them. Make sure it the pellets are plain, high fiber and fresh, with no added goodies such as dried banana chips or seeds. Don't ever leave a deep water dish in which a baby could drown; instead, use something shallow and rinse and fill it frequently.

If these are wild rabbit babies: Start giving them small amounts of pesticide-free greens and timothy or oat hay at this point (grass, dandelions, weeds, parsley...), but you do not need to introduce them to pellets, as the goal is to release them back into the wild where the food is not that high in protein. If they are eating pellets and then released into the wild, the change in diet could kill them.

Again, it is critical that you handle wild babies only for feeding and cleaning, or for wound care as necessary. Keep them in a quiet area away from family goings-on. The goal is to keep them as wild as possible so that they will have a better chance when re-released.

Wild rabbits do not make good pets. The do not become docile like their domesticated cousins and they will be happier in the wild, where they belong. It is illegal and cruel to keep a healthy wild animal as a "pet".

If you can find a wildlife rehabilitator in your are who will care for and release the babies, this is your best bet.

Wild rabbits should be released as soon as they are eating hay and greens, are urinating, defecating and drinking well and are approximately 5 inches in body length. They will be small, but the longer you keep them, the more agitated and difficult to handle they will become and the less likely their chances for survival in the wild.

Make sure to release them in a safe place, where no pesticides are used--and where they will not run out into a street! It is best to release them in the early morning so that they have the day to acclimate. Community parks are NOT the place to release any rabbit, let alone a wild one. Prior to the release date, try taking drives and/or walks in the dawn & dusk hours (rabbits are crepuscular) in rural and country-ish areas and find out where other wild rabbits live.

We choose to release our babies very early in the morning (5AM) or lat in the afternoon (4-5PM) in order that they have some time to acclimate and find a place to hide. We always make sure to leave several days supply of hay and water, so the babies will not starve or dehydrate will acclimating to their surroundings. It is best to leave the hay and water right next to large bushes, so the rabbits will have some place to run into should a predator come along while they are eating/drinking.

Please contact Zooh Corner for more information of releasing wild rabbits - or how to tell IF the rabbit you have is wild (909)868-BUNI

If you plan to keep this rabbit as a pet (as long as it is domestic), make sure that you have the time and really want a House Rabbit. They are wonderful, affectionate, playful pets than can be litter box trained like cats and live 8-13 years if altered and properly cared for.

If you just want to let it live in the back yard or a cage - contact us for more information, and for help placing it. Rabbits should not live outside or in isolated cages. They are very social animals, love people and the outside life is simply too dangerous (heat, cold, predators, bacteria) for a rabbit to live a long happy life.

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