Wild Baby Hares and Proper Handling

The following information was graciously provided by The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton, image provided by Larry D. Moore

Rabbits can make great pets to raise and care for, but their cousins, the wild White-Tailed Prairie Hares of Alberta do not belong in your home. Also known as Jackrabbits, these hares are common in Alberta’s urban environment and are well adapted to their conditions. If you see what looks like an orphaned baby hare, we urge you to leave it as is and not take it home.

White-tailed Prairie Hares are more active at night.  During the day, it is normal for mother hare to leave her young as her presence near them would attract the unwanted attention of predators.  Baby hares have an instinctual defense of “freezing in place” and an effective natural camouflage which protect them from their normal predators. This “freezing” can make people think the hares are defenseless but this action is a natural day-time defense mechanism.  At night, the hares become much more active.  The female will find and nurse her young and forage for food.

Knowing all that, there are rare occasions when we would encourage you to relocate a baby hare that is truly in danger. Signs to look for include leg fractures, open wounds, or suspected parasites or neurological damage that can be recognized by the loss of balance or falling over. If you find a hare in these conditions, contact your local wildlife rehabilitation society or the Alberta Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Association at 1-888-924-2444 immediately. If they request that you transport the hare to them, please follow these guidelines to ensure that you minimize the animal’s stress:

  • Use an appropriately sized box with adequate ventilation
  • Leave the car radio off and speak in whispers when necessary
  • Minimize handling, only touching the hare to place it in the box if possible
  • Keep it away from all family pets
  • Do not feed the hare

It would also be appropriate to move a baby hare if it is found in an unsafe location such as a parking lot or construction site. Under these circumstances, we recommend wearing gloves while picking the hare up and moving it to the nearest grassy area. Baby hares are best raised by their own mothers, and we should do our best to ensure this bond is not broken while we maintain a position of environmental stewardship.

Source: Alberta Veterinary Medical Association