I recently published two pins on Pinterest: one about my favorite sound of spring, the other a nice graphic on the steps to take when one finds a baby cottontail rabbit. I did not realize it at the time of publication, but these pins have an intertwined history—namely, both relate to my time as a wildlife rehabilitator over 25 years ago.
I remember that quite a few people showed up for the wildlife rehabilitation workshop that year, and many of them were interested in caring for squirrels, raccoons and deer. My interest in the eastern cottontail prompted the organizers to deem me the new “bunny lady.” Several other workshop graduates had signed up to rehabilitate the cottontails, and I was glad that I would have some help.
I learned quickly, and I suppose it was because I was truly interested in either mending these creatures or raising them long enough to be returned to the wild. I received what I thought to be adequate training, but it did not teach me the skills I needed to manage the other rabbit volunteers. The woman who conducted the training was always available, and I was grateful for her help. But it was sometimes difficult to find volunteers who would accept a litter at night or on a weekend (since this was the early ‘90s, I had to leave what seemed to be a mammoth amount of phone messages on landlines), and more often than not I would have to keep them. At any one time I might have four or five litters in their own boxes in addition to individual bunnies of varying ages, and these had to be kept separate also.
I always tried to keep a steady supply of boxes, so I would visit grocery stores to find the sturdy ones. I always lined the bottoms with soft cloth, and because a bunny’s toenails are so long, terry-looped towels were not used. One time I placed an ad in the newspaper offering some VHS exercise tapes for flat-weave towels and sheets, and I soon received a call from a woman who agreed to a trade. She insisted on viewing the tapes in full first (I could not blame her), and I collected a large lot of usable material.
That fall I attended a conference at Cornell University, and I received advanced training in the care of injured and orphaned wildlife. The conference organizers treated the attendees to a fascinating hummingbird exhibit and a tour of Ithaca’s beautiful Cascadilla Falls. The only drawback to this trip was the stop in Elmira there and back, and because flying was (and still is) not my idea of a good time, I was filled with anxiety until I was able to place my feet firmly on the ground.
During the last few evenings, I have spied a large eastern cottontail rabbit foraging near our barn, and I am transported back to 1991. It was then when I find out I am pregnant and that I will now have to give up my short career as a wildlife rehabilitator. After my daughter is born, I turn to writing some wildlife articles and helping with the newsletter, but I cease my involvement with the rehabilitation group when I begin my quest to search for a diagnosis for her a few years later.
My second pin is a graphic that offers some great information on what to do if you find a young cottontail rabbit. If you click on the image, you will be taken to The Wildlife Center of Virginia, where you will find additional information.
If our resident bunny is a female, she will no doubt deliver a litter soon, followed by perhaps three more this summer. I must remember to scan the ground carefully for shallow nests of grass and fur before I mow and be even more vigilant as the tiny young begin to leave the nest.
“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”—Lucy Maud Montgomery