A baby hare raising experience.
Wild babies. They are everywhere – and if not, soon to be. The robins are announcing their presence, and all sorts of birds are now trying to find a suitable place to nest. Our wild jackrabbits have probably already had their first litter of leverets (they are not baby bunnies, but hares, as they are born with their eyes fully open.)
Last spring, a baby leveret was born in our backyard. We discovered him by accident – a tiny ball of fur that sat very still, looking somewhat akin to a rock. It was very important that we left him alone: leverets are born without scent, so they will not attract predators. They almost look as though they are orphaned or abandoned little baby rabbits…and therein lies the problem.
Many, many well intentioned people will make the mistake of interfering with wildlife. Because a baby hare looks like a baby bunny without a mother, they will bring them to either vet clinics or a wildlife rehabilitation centre (or worse, try to make them pets!) This is not the best fate for a leveret, as they can die easily of stress and need their mother’s milk.
Leverets differ from rabbits. Within the first hour after they are born, they have their eyes open and are ready to run. They do not borrow underground, unlike rabbits. They are away from their mothers for most of the day, so it looks like they are orphaned. But the mother will come back to them and feed them at dusk and at dawn, when it is safe. The rest of the time, she is away from her young, as her scent might attract predators.
As for our leveret, we did our best to give him his space. We avoided going into the backyard for the first couple of weeks, and watched out for neighborhood cats and crows that might have harassed him in our yard. We watched him grow, run off, and come back into our yard on many occasions. It brought us so much joy to see him come back again this spring, as an awkward young buck chowing down some of the creeping thyme in my rock garden…I think that thyme was a fair trade to be able to watch such a handsome animal! (But if you don’t want to share the spoils of your garden, you can “hare proof” your yard as well, with raised beds and some mesh wire.)
Our white tailed prairie hares are a native species often called jack rabbits, and an important part of our ecosystem. Both rabbits and hares are mistakenly called rodents; they are actually lagomorphs, a mammalian order that also includes pikas. There are other rabbits in Calgary – many rabbits, which should be pets, have been illegally released and reproduce in the wild as well. It’s a tough life for them out there and they are not meant for our environment. Our family adopted a “Bridgeland bunny” and recommends helping your local lagomorphs by adopting a rabbit from the Calgary Humane Society (and taking rescued pets there), and leaving the truly native species alone.
Some contacts (in case you find a truly injured/ distressed animal):
Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society: (403) 239-2488
Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (by Madden): (403) 946-2361
Cochrane Ecological Institute (just outside Cochrane): (403) 932-5632
Calgary Humane Society (for pets): (403) 205-4455