Does that Hare really need Rescuing?
When you find a baby hare (leveret), it is very important to accurately determine if he needs your help. Very young leverets will freeze when they see you which may lead you to believe they need assistance when really they do not. However, if the baby is seriously injured or truly orphaned then he does need help.
It is time to INTERVENE if the Leveret is
Abandoned, Sick or Injured . . .
How to Determine
If a Litter has been
Every year well-meaning people ‘critter-nap’ healthy young hares (leverets) that have not been abandoned and take them to a Rescue. Leveret survival rates are significantly higher if he can stay with his Mom. As a result, it is very important you correctly identify when a leveret actually needs your help.
And they rarely do.
Unless the mother hare has been killed, it is very unlikely she has abandoned her litter. It is normal behaviour for a hare to feed her babies only once a day. Otherwise, mothers usually leave their babies on their own.
Because of this behaviour, humans often mistakenly think the mother hare has abandoned a leveret they find when in fact she has not.
Is Mom Around?
If you did not witness the mother’s death you will need another method of determining if the leverets have been abandoned.
To this end, first carefully circle the baby with flour. Then snap a photo of the pattern so you have an accurate record of it. Now leave the area. Please do not stay to watch the nest even from a great distance. If you do the mother will probably not return. A day later, check if the flour pattern you made has changed.
If the pattern has changed or the baby is no longer there then mom is still looking after her litter and does not need your help. Therefore, you can leave and please keep your dog and cat away from the area too. Do not mow the grass in the baby’s vicinity until they have all matured and left the area.
However, if the baby is still sitting in the middle of the flour patter, you can safely conclude the baby is orphaned or abandoned. Now it is time to visit Caring for Abandoned Hares.
How to Determine
If a Leveret is Sick or Injured
Similar to other wild animals, leverets are very talented at hiding symptoms of an illness or injury. As a result, we often won’t realize they are sick or injured until the very late stages of an illness or unless the injury is severe. By that time the animal is in serious trouble.
Be very careful when handling a sick or injured leveret. Always wear protective gloves for his sake and yours.
Be gentle! This animal is in pain.
The leveret needs your help if he displays any of the following symptoms:
- dehydration, emaciation, or weakness;
- active bleeding, swelling, or lesions;
- not breathing properly;
- unusual discharge is coming from his eyes, mouth, ears, nose or butt;
- shock (animal appears sleepy, tame, or non-responsive);
- neurological problems such as seizures, head tilting, circling, or loss of balance;
- not acting ‘normal’ such as, for example, approaching you;
- covered in insects like flies or ants;
- foreign objects are stuck on or in his body;
- foreign substance (such as oil, grease, or glue) is on his fur;
- apparent or suspected blindness;
- appears wet but it is not raining;
- handled by a dog or cat who may have caused internal injuries to the leveret;
- no use or impaired use of one or more of his limbs; or,
- missing part of any limb or tail. If the injury is healed over and the animal appears to be functioning normally, consult a wildlife rehabilitator for further advice prior to intervention.
If the leveret you have found is sick or injured, please visit our Network to find an appropriate organization that will accept him. Or, you could take him to a local veterinarian (who specializes in hares/lagomorphs) yourself and then Contact Us. Although we don’t currently have the resources to accept sick or injured animals that have not received medical treatment, as authorized wildlife rehabilitators we are very well equipped to nurse them through their recovery, rehabilitation and release phases after they have been seen by a medical professional.
When to NOT Intervene
Baby hares freeze when afraid. They know they are unable to outrun a predator (i.e. you) so they freeze and hope you do not see them. This behaviour is not to be confused with an animal in distress.
Therefore, unless you suspect that he is injured, dehydrated or you witness the mother’s death, please leave him alone. If you follow, chase or try to catch him the stress may kill him.
Please do not allow children, cats or dogs to approach leverets or adult hares either. There will be no happy ending if you do.
When to MAYBE Intervene
What do you do when you see a leveret that is in imminent danger? For example, when a predator is nearby, or the baby is located in the middle of a road.
Sometimes the best you can do is leave the baby alone. This is true when for example, acting may cause the situation to worsen.
When possible, scare away the predator.
Finally, as a last resort, you could move the leveret a VERY short distance away so he is out of danger but his mother is still able to find him when she returns.
Always keep your pets and children away from all leverets. It is not ‘cute’ to catch a leveret to show your children.
If the problem is that the leverets are in the middle of your lawn in the path of your lawnmower, just leave them alone and don’t mow near that area. You don’t want to injure the babies or change their environment so much that the mother is too afraid to return.
You will not be inconvenienced for very long as they mature quickly and will leave the area.
If you have now determined a leveret really needs your intervention because he has truly been orphaned or abandoned, please visit Caring for Abandoned Baby Hares. Here you will find guidance on the initial steps you can take to help this animal. Then please Contact Us to make drop-off arrangements.