Li’l Bertie Cottontail

Baby Li’l Bertie Cottontail

“I’m not so sure about this one’. The lady carefully pulled back the bedding to reveal the smallest baby bunny I had ever seen. Blind, hairless and weak he poked his sightless head around, trying to discover the source of the sudden exposure to cold air. I was amazed that she could even tell he was a bunny!

“Don’t worry, he looks healthy” was my response. I tried to smile at her with confidence and hoped my words did not reveal how tiny a chance I thought this little bunny actually had.

We bundled him back up and I took this little treasure back to my car and named him Li’l Bertie Cottontail. There were 5 older bunnies in another box so I took them too. 

All the way home I wondered what could be done to keep this small baby alive.

Back home, I fed Li’l Bertie first and put him back in his box. He pushed his way into the middle of the bedding and went to sleep. Then I fed the 5 older bunnies and put them back in their box.

While eating my dinner, it hit me. The dog’s tail. ‘Jack cut it out!’ Jack looked at me with his big brown eyes.

Then a thought occurred to me:  what would happen if I put one of the older bunnies with Li’l Bertie? Would this be safe? Was it worth the risk? This arrangement would not be a substitute for a mother, but if it worked it would give Li’l Bertie a much better chance to live.

Too excited to finish dinner, I pushed the remaining food into Jack’s bowl and rushed to see the bunnies.

Bertie Cottontail

Li’l Bertie struggles at feeding time

Li’l Bertie snuggles into new friend

As they had been fed and were therefore quiet, now would be the best time for this experiment. I took the smallest of the 5 bunnies out and put him with Li’l Bertie. The older bunny seemed a little dazed at first. After all, I had just woken him up. Li’l Bertie was ecstatic. Once he realized there was another bunny with him, all of his legs struggled to get as close as possible to the newcomer. He pushed and snuggled and eventually fell asleep under the older bunny’s tummy. His new litter mate just sat there so I put some bedding over them and left.

An hour later, I checked on them and they were both sleeping. Together.

This had been a good day.

Growing up …

Days passed and Li’l Bertie never left his new mate’s side.

I noticed a very curious thing. Li’l Bertie’s mate grew faster than his original 4 litter mates. He was the smallest in the litter, then he became the largest !  So I named him Goliath.

As Goliath was always good to Li’l Bertie, I didn’t see any reason to exchange him for a smaller bunny although Goliath was now bigger than his 4 ex-litter mates and of course therefore much bigger than Li’l Bertie.

Goliath’s 4 ex-litter mates did well. They grew up and were released. Li’l Bertie’s mate Goliath, however, had to stay. Li’l Bertie needed him.

Li’l Bertie with Goliath

Curious Li’l Bertie rearing up

As time passed, Li’l Bertie grew fur, his ears perked up and eventually his eyes opened.

He was a curious little fella. Always the first to sniff the fresh dandelions I put in his cage. Always first to explore a cardboard box.

Goliath didn’t seem to mind the youngster’s impetuous behaviour.

Then one day after weighing him I realized Li’l Bertie was ready to be released.

Time to go …

Both Li’l Bertie and Goliath timidly left the carrier. They huddled in the grass, not sure what to do next. A little sniff here. A little sniff there….

Suddenly, off they went! Li’l Bertie had no problem keeping up with his friend as they hopped across the field into the bush, out of sight. Their bond was strong.

I wanted to do more for them but our time was over. They were back where they belonged. In the wild. Together.