This is the time of year for baby bunnies; you may find a nest right in your own backyard or front-yard in my case. Due to the natural habitat of rabbits being depleted, it is not uncommon for the mother rabbit to make a nest under the sod/grass in your lawn. If you happen to see a bunny or signs of its presence than you are more than likely to have a nest close by. If a nest is in your yard, you will see a dead patch of grass..(when the mother lifts the sod, the grass dies) the mother rabbit will make a burrow (basin shaped), and will use a variety of materials that she will find in her environment to line the nest. After having her litter, she will cover the nest and baby bunnies with the sod. Mother rabbits are very clever at reapplying the sod to the natural contours of the ground; it is very difficult for predators to detect a nest.
I have a New England Cottontail, that visits my yard frequently. At the time, I wasn’t sure if it was Peter or Penelope who was stopping by; I would see the bunny near the chicken coop grazing on clover, and I thought if there was a nest it would probably be around that area. My family took extra precautions and some areas were completely avoided while mowing the lawn and weed whacking as to not disturb a rabbit’s nest in the backyard. I never thought that a nest would be in the front-yard, especially with all the traffic/activity of us going in and out of the front door, and my cat, Bear, lounging daily underneath the shrubs in front of the house. I am just baffled that the mother rabbit would choose that location for her nest.
The best thing anyone can do when they find a nest is to not touch the baby rabbits. You do not want the mother rabbit to reject her litter because of human contact. It is also important to know that the mother only feeds her offspring twice a day. She will intentionally stay away, to prevent predators from discovering the nest. Even though it appears that the mother has abandoned the little ones, usually it is not the case.
The population of New England Cottontail has dwindled, due to their habitat being destroyed. It was once very uncommon to see a rabbits nest in a yard. They normally would build nests and raise off-spring in brush, but due to their environment being destroyed and developed they have adapted to building nests in open spaces. The conversationalists have recognized the depleting numbers of this species and have several programs to restore their population: http://www.newenglandcottontail.org/conservation/
We can do our part by keeping the nests that we discover as safe as possible, while leaving the nest in its natural surroundings. It only takes approx. three weeks for the little ones to leave the nest. If we can keep the nest safe for that short period of time then we are helping with the New England Cotton tail long term survival.