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Wild Baby Hares and Proper Handling
Rabbits can make great pets to raise and care for, but their cousins, the wild White-Tailed Prairie Hares of Alberta do not belong in your home. Also known as Jackrabbits, these hares are common in Alberta's urban environment and are well adapted to their conditions. If you see what looks like an orphaned baby hare, we urge you to leave it as is and not take it home. Unlike baby domestic rabbits, baby hares are born fully-furred with eyes open and can hop about within hours of birth. They become independent very quickly and do not remain in a nest site nor do they live in burrows.
White-tailed Prairie Hares are more active at night. During the day, it is normal for mother hare to leave her young as her presence near them would attract the unwanted attention of predators. Baby hares have an instinctual defense of "freezing in place" and an effective natural camouflage which protect them from their normal predators. This "freezing" can make people think the hares are defenseless but this action is a natural day-time defense mechanism. At night, the hares become much more active. The female will find and nurse her young and forage for food.
Knowing all that, there are rare occasions when a baby hare truly needs help. If you see a baby hare with obvious injuries such as leg fractures, open wounds, or suspected parasites or neurological damage that can be recognized by the loss of balance or falling over, then contact your local wildlife rehabilitation. (See list below) If they request that you transport the hare to them, please follow these guidelines to ensure that you minimize the animal's stress:
- Use an appropriately sized box with adequate ventilation, lined with paper towels and grass
- Leave the car radio off and speak in whispers when necessary
- Minimize handling, only touching the hare to place it in the box
- Keep it away from all family pets
- Do not feed the hare
It would also be appropriate to move a baby hare if it is in imminent danger such as a parking lot or construction site. Under these circumstances, the hare can be moved it to the nearest grassy area by gently nudging it or gently picking it up with gloves. Sadly, many well-meaning people think they can save the baby hare by taking it home. Often, these little animals die of stress from handling and improper nutrition. All baby wildlife are best raised by their own mothers, and we should do our best to ensure this bond is not broken.
Alberta Wildlife Rehabilitators:
Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society 403-214-1312 calgarywildlife.org
Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation 403-946-2361 aiwc.ca
Cochrane Ecological Institute 403-932-5632 ceinst.org
Medicine River Wildlife Centre 403-728-3467 medicineriverwildlifecentre.ca
WILDNorth Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation 780-914-4118 wildnorth.ca
And for Birds of Prey:
Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation 403-331-9520 burrowingowl.com
Alberta Society for Injured Birds of Prey 780-922-3024 raptorshelter.org