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We recently received a call from a member of the public desperately looking for our help.  What started as two confirmed females, abandoned at the lady’s home, had managed to develop into a situation where she was now trying to manage approximately 16 rabbits.  She could only assume that a local wild rabbit had entered the enclosure and bred with the females and now both females were producing litter after litter.  She was struggling, not only with the volume, but also in trying to contain them within their environment.  She was concerned that she didn’t know how to sex the rabbits and that leaving them in one enclosure would increase the risk of further babies. A picture of half-wild rabbits, interbreeding in underground warrens within the lady’s garden was starting to form and we naturally recognised this was an urgent case.

Our waiting list for rabbits to enter the rescue continues to grow, and is the largest it has ever been since the charity’s formation in December 2010.  As such we prioritise rehoming requests based on the circumstances and the date we receive the request.  Naturally therefore it needs to be an extreme scenario for us to prioritise a case ahead of the waiting list.  However, where there are large numbers involved, combined with the potential for further breeding and illness we will always treat these as our highest priority.

On Tuesday, 7th July 2015, we pulled together a small team of volunteers, hopped in the van and headed out to assess the situation.

On arrival, we immediately could see the issue, but thankfully circumstances were not as bad as we had started to imagine they may be.  The rabbits were in an enclosure with more than ample space, and the majority of the rabbits were all VERY young.  As we breathed a sigh of relief that the risk of further pregnancies was now considerably reduced, we sought further details from the owner.

The main issue appeared to be the two mothers who were continuing to breed with a mysterious bunny.  Although the run was large, it was low and open topped making it very easy for the mothers (and some of the others) to escape.  The mums would regularly disappear, sometimes for days at a time.  On arrival, neither mother was there: one had not been seen for some time and the other was running around the surrounding area; she was close, we saw her, but she wasn’t within catchable-distance.  The owner also advised of having come out one morning to find a rabbit had been attacked and killed by a predator.

We set to trying to capture the rabbits so we could sex them and split them into appropriate groups.  In doing so we split them:
• 2 girls, approximately 12-16 weeks old
• 3 boys, approximately 12-16 weeks old
• 2 boys and a girl, approximately 8-10 weeks old
• 6 babies, estimated to be around 4-6 weeks old.
• 2 older females (mums) not assessed as we couldn’t catch them!

Given the young age of the rabbits we were happy to keep them in these groupings, which also allowed us to find the space within the rescue to bring them in straight away.

The owner was keen to keep the two mums and so we offered some advice on what she should do to capture them and changes needed to the environment to make it safe; safe in terms of keeping her rabbits in, and also keeping predators out.  We also offered some further advice about the benefits of neutering and some further dietary advice too.  We will keep in touch with her to see how she gets on with the two mums, who may well already have been pregnant again.

Our immediate concern was the youngest group of 6 babies.  They were far too young to be taken away from mum at such a young age.  Ordinarily in such circumstances we would consider bringing mum with us or to leave the babies with the owner until they had reached 8 weeks old then bring them in to the rescue.  However given that we had limited evidence that mum was returning daily, and the increased chance of predator attack in the environment we made a very difficult decision to take them with us at this time.

In addition, one of the 12 week old males, who had long fur, was identified to be very seriously matted, to the extent where we believe it may be causing discomfort.

Since bringing the rabbits into the rescue a couple of weeks ago, all rabbits have been doing very well.

The young babies, who are all eating hay and nuggets well, are also being hand reared with an additional feed of goats milk & honey to try to replicate their mother’s milk.  Around about their estimated age rabbits would normally begin to wean themselves from their mothers milk so we are hoping they will naturally come off this in about 2 weeks time.  They have been placed with a foster carer who is on annual leave for the next few weeks, allowing her to provide full focus on the rearing of these little ones.

The matted bunny is doing well and has now had his fur shaved.  This is the quickest, easiest and safest way to remove his matted fur which will relieve strain on his skin and will allow us to ensure his regrowth is maintained properly.

As with all our large cases, we have picked a theme for the names of all the rabbits.  On this occasion our theme is “The Phonetic Alphabet”, and so we ask you to say hello to Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, Indigo, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, Mike and November.

Since the rescue itself we have had feedback from the owner to advise that she has managed to get a hold of one of the mums, and in doing so has noticed the arrival of an unknown white rabbit in the garden.  Further investigation and support will continue, but we now wonder if this mystery rabbit could be dad!?!

Check out our website for further details on the rabbits and details on how you could adopt from this rescue case.