Baby bunnies now recovering after students remove them from nest

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

These two eastern cottontails were among the 44 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week.

The wildlife hospital received a call from a principal at a local elementary school early on Monday morning because one of her students had brought a baby rabbit to school. The principal had the rabbit kit safely contained in her office but needed assistance getting the kit to the hospital. A volunteer Critter Courier was dispatched to help with transport.

Conversations with the principal, the girl, and the girl’s parents revealed that, unbeknownst to the parents, the girl and her sister had taken three rabbit kits from a nest in their yard. A second kit was with the sister at her school in North Naples. Hospital staff spoke with staff at that school and although the sister was extremely unwilling, she finally relinquished the baby rabbit to school officials. A Critter Courier was dispatched to retrieve that rabbit as well.

The mother of the two girls knew there was a third rabbit and was desperately working to determine what had happened to that baby. The situation was urgent; the girls had found the rabbit kits on Saturday which meant the babies had gone without food for two days.

The rabbit kits were dull, weak, dehydrated and underweight when admitted. Hospital staff provided electrolytes to slowly rehydrate the babies. Serious health issues or death can occur if food is introduced too quickly to an animal that has gone without food or water for an extended period of time. The young age of the kits made the prognosis for their survival very guarded.

The kits received electrolytes and a dilute milk replacement formula specifically designed for rabbits throughout the first 24 hours of care. The two babies’ strength improved considerably after 48 hours of intensive care.

Staff never received a response from the family, so it is unknown what happened to the third rabbit. While the rabbits are not yet ready for release, they are doing well and continue to thrive in our care.

Sadly, this is not the only situation to occur last week involving an animal taken from the wild and being kept by a member of the public. A striped mud turtle arrived in poor health after being kept for three years.

Please, be a voice for animals and help us stop the suffering and unnecessary loss of life. Never consider keeping a wild animal as a pet and if you know someone who is keeping a wild animal, educate them on the harm they are causing.

Wild animals have specific nutrition and husbandry requirements that are extremely difficult to replicate in a captive setting. Additionally, wild animals deserve to live in the wild and not be placed in captivity because people find it entertaining.

If you find an orphaned animal, call the wildlife hospital for assistance. We will do everything needed to provide appropriate care. If you find a healthy wild animal, leave it be so it can continue its life in the wild.

Recent Releases

Two raccoons, three brown pelicans, a Virginia opossum, four double-crested cormorants, a sandwich tern, eight eastern cottontails, a gray catbird, a great horned owl, a northern cardinal, eastern screech owl, red-shouldered hawk and a striped mud turtle were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website at to view all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Your volunteer time, memberships and donations are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.