We received a call today from a scared and concerned woman whose pet rabbit was sick and unresponsive. She had adopted a wild cottontail rabbit from a store that sold domestic rabbits. They had told her it was hand raised and not releasable back to the wild. She was told it would be fine with the domestic rabbit she already had. This misinformation has caused this bunny to be severely emaciated, injured, and dehydrated. This kind woman was doing everything right for “domestic” rabbits. The place that gave her a wild rabbit will be contacted and educated to ensure this never happens again.
Because it was in with another rabbit, it was not easy to tell that this bun was not eating. They can also fluff up their fur when they are not feeling well in order to not look vulnerable to predators. She did not realize just how thin he had become.
The truth is that wild and domestic rabbits are not even remotely related genetically. They are completely different species. They have different diets, behaviors, and stress levels. A wild rabbit needs large amounts of fresh greens and wild foods. It has no idea what an alfalfa pellet is, and will not recognize it as food. Wild and domestic rabbits will not typically get along as they are not speaking the same rabbit language. Sunny has some wounds on both hips that could be from getting picked on by his domestic companion.
Wild rabbits will generally always fear people and keep their distance, even when raised by people from a young age. Being handled by people is extremely stressful and can actually cause fatality. We handle wild rabbits in our care as little as possible and with as little noise and interruption as we can control.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, this is where Sunny’s story ended. This rabbit was too weak and did not survive the night. This is why it’s so important to get the word out that wild animals are NOT pets and should never be treated that way. Always find a licensed wildlife rehabilitator if you have any questions or come across a wild animal that is in need of help. If you ever see a wild animal being sold or kept as a pet, please call Animal Control, the DNR, or us. Chances are, it is not being cared for as it should, even when the intentions are good.