As I began to drive down the road in the direction I had just come from, I noticed a small black object in the lane. The car in front of me noticed it too and swerved at the last minute. I figured it was trash in the road but when it didn't blow away from the car but instead hopped towards the car (and nearly in front of my car) I realized it wasn't. Just as I was moving to avoid it, I noticed it's ears pop up - it was a baby bunny. I watched in my rear view as the car behind me almost hit the poor thing and did a U-turn, parked in the middle of the opposite lane in a 4 lane road and figured I would scare it into heading back into the desert where it must have came from. Just as I was pulling up to stop, my attention was brought to a 2nd bunny - because a huge hawk swooped down and grabbed it. Yeah, this lil bun bun needed help.
I tried to scare the little guy to head back to the desert but he was too small to hop over the curb. Instead, he turned back towards the road and headed straight to my car, trapping himself between me and my rear tire. So, with the combination of the bunny NOT going to the desert, the fact I just watched the 2nd bunny become some hawk's late breakfast and the fact I was parked in the inside lane of a 4 lane road with a big military truck heading my way, I made the split decision to scoop up said bunny, deposit it on the passenger seat of my car and drive away before anything else happened. (ie: squished baby bunny, squished me, or squished Subaru Forrester). Leaving the baby in the road wasn't an option.
So, I came home with this.
My original though was that I had a baby bunny that was fully furred, eyes opened and was probably several weeks old so I would just rescue the bunny from being roadkill and when the sun started going down, return said bunny safely to the desert. However, once I got the bunny home and had a closer look, we realized that we did not have a baby bunny at all - we had a black tail jack rabbit. A VERY young black tailed jack rabbit - as in, a neonatal, maybe 8-10 days old, black tailed jack rabbit.
As we learned about Jackrabbits, trying to find out what would be our best bet for this guy, we learned that the mom makes a very shallow nest on the desert ground, leaving it pretty much unprotected during the day and she only returns to nurse the babies at night. When they are born, they are fully furred with their eyes open and are mobile but can't forage or live on their own til around 6-9 weeks old. So, the idea of releasing this guy back in the desert that night wasn't going to happen. Our best guess is that something, maybe a snake, coyote or bobcat found the nest and the two babies manages to get away but went into the road.
The bad news (but good news for me) about jackrabbits in California is that they are not a protected species - surprising since almost everything in this state is protected. Jackrabbits are not and are considered a game mammal and nussance animal. You can kill them on your property with no special hunting licenses and no legal reprocussions. This is good news for me, however, because it meant that I also do not need a special license to care for this little guy, nor do I need to find a rehabilitation facility to bring him to (not that any would take him). Instead, it means the kids are getting an up close nature study and we are all having to learn much about baby jackrabbits. The kids have begun to call him Picket, after the rabbit in The Green Ember.
For starters, we learned that this little guy was going to have to be nursed with milk as he is too young to forage for food just yet, So, a few times a day he gets roughly 1/10th of a cup of goats milk fed to him with a pippette so that he can control how fast he eats to avoid aspiration. We learned that in the wild, his mother would only feed him once at night, but since he's being fed goats milk instead of his mother's milk, we feed him three times a day (10am, 4pm, 10pm) since it's not as thick or nutrient dense. We have also put some 1st cut Timothy hay down in his container so that when he starts wanting to forage, it is available to him. We also have a small dish of water and some fresh greens available for him when he begins to want solid food.
So far, the hardest part is reminding the kids (and myself) that he (if he is indeed a he, he could be a she lol) is not a pet but is a wild animal. Once he begins to forage for food, we have safe rabbit holes that we can release him to. (Jackrabbits, unlike rabbits, do not make for good pets even when hand raised). Since we already have other jackrabbits as well as desert cottontail in our immediate area, we know it will be a safe area for him to be released to.
Just in a few days, he's grown quite a bit from that first day.. I mean, look at that face!!
He seems to like watching while Ashleigh's doign her artwork (excuse the mess).
Hard to believe that lil guy is going to turn into this.
I'll try to give updates each week to Picket's development for the next few weeks leading up to his release hopefully next month. We have dubbed this our Picket Project with the final goal beign to release a happy, healthy black tailed jackrabbit.