The Coachella Valley is home to two rabbit/hare species- the desert cottontail and the jackrabbit. Desert cottontails can be distinguished by their grey-brown fur and a white fluffy tail which gives them their name. Jackrabbits, on the other hand, have more brown fur and very long, upright ears.
The Living Desert Wildlife Rehabilitation facility accepts all injured or orphaned desert cottontails and jackrabbits.
The Living Desert does not accept pet rabbits. For a list of local Palm Desert animal shelters, click here.
How to identify an injured rabbit:
- Animal attack/ hit by a car
- Lethargic/not standing up/leaning
- Vertigo-like symptoms- dizziness/unsteadiness
- Broken legs
How to contain a rabbit:
- Obtain an escape-proof box/container with air holes.
- Line the box with an old t-shirt or fray-less towel
- Place the rabbit/hare inside the box, close and secure the box
- Keep rabbit/hare in a quiet, dark place
- Keep warm but not hot
- Transport the rabbit/hare to a wildlife rehabilitator
- Do not feed/hydrate an orphaned baby rabbit/hare without instruction from a wildlife rehabilitator; feeding/hydrating incorrectly may have devastating effects.
- Offer adult injured rabbits/hares water. Please bring the rabbit/hare to a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, Desert Cottontails (the most common species of rabbit found in the desert) make shallow nests. It is common to find a group of baby rabbits in a small dip in the dirt under a tree or bush. This is an adequate nest, for the mother and young, unless discovered by a well-meaning human.
If you find a nest of baby rabbits with no parent in sight, please, leave this nest alone. The mother rabbit only feeds her young at dawn and dusk , leaving them in the nest by themselves throughout the day. It is extremely important that you do not remove these babies unless they are obviously injured. See above for ways to identify injuries in rabbits.
*Rehabilitating a baby rabbit whose eyes are closed is extremely difficult as it is hard to ensure they receive adequate nutrition. It is in mom and babies’ best interest to leave them alone before bringing to a rehabilitation. Test a nest to make sure the babies are true orphans.*
You can test a nest to ensure mom is returning at dusk to feed her babies.
How to Test a Nest:
- Gently place a few sticks or twine in a loose spider web formation over the nest.
- Remember this formation (You can take a photo to help compare the next day.)
- In the morning, check on the nest. If there has been a disturbance to the formation, mother has returned, fed her babies, and left for the day. She will return at dusk to feed them again.
- If the formation has not changed since you placed the sticks or twine the previous day, call The Living Desert Wildlife Rehabilitation line at 760-568-2330 or bring the baby/babies to a wildlife rehabilitator immediately.
*It is important not to hover or linger by the nest. This will scare mom away as well as entice potential predators to see what you are watching.*
Desert rabbits/hares mature very quickly. It is important to be able to identify whether a rabbit/hare is a nestling in need of help or an independent juvenile.
How to identify a juvenile rabbit from a baby rabbit:
Rabbits are juveniles if:
- Their eyes are open
- They are over 4 inches long
- Their ears stand straight up
- They are the size of a tennis ball or larger
*If the rabbit you found is a juvenile and does not exhibit the symptoms of an injured rabbit as described above, leave it alone. At this stage of its life, this rabbit is completely independent and does not rely on mom for anything *
If a rabbit is easy to catch in the summer, it may simply be dehydrated. Offer the rabbit a shallow dish of water and wait an hour. If the rabbit remains in the same place, call The Living Desert Wildlife Rehabilitation line at 760-568-2330. Remove the water dish after the hour as this may attract predators.<< Back to Rehabilitation Page