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April 4, 2012

From "For Free" to Freedom: A Cottontail Story

With the help of our Cape Wildlife Center, three wild rabbits are back in the woods where they belong

  • This Eastern cottontail rabbit was found, along with two others, in a box on the side of the road in Cape Cod. The HSUS

  • The bunnies were rehabilitated at our Cape Wildlife Center, then released into the wild where they belong. The HSUS

  • The cottontails chose to spend the summer in the safety of a CWC employee's flower garden before heading into the forest. The HSUS

With their tall ears and cottonball tails, Eastern cottontail rabbits are irresistible. Try as they might to stay quiet and out of sight, the little creatures sometimes fall victim to animal attacks, yard tools, cars, and even people. Such was the case for three tiny cottontails found last summer on the side of the road, in a box with a “For Free” sign affixed to it.

Brought to The HSUS’s Cape Wildlife Center, the wild rabbits thrived under the care of our rehabilitators. When they were ready to be on their own, the bunnies were released into a 200-acre conservation area that borders the property of a CWC employee.

The cottontails, however, saw no reason to travel very far. They found all they needed right in our staff member’s flower garden: tasty plants, a warm brick walkway, and even a goldfish pond. The cottontails stayed in the garden all summer long, safe and protected. As summer turned to fall and the flowers faded away, the rabbits finally made their way into the wooded conservation area—this time, for good.

More about bunnies

Does that rabbit need my help? They may look helpless, but wild rabbits longer than 4 inches are fully independent of their mother. Even baby rabbits found alone in their nest are not usually orphans. When and how to get involved »

Wild or domestic? Most wild rabbits in the U.S. are cottontails, who are brown with white tails—just like the rabbits in this story. Wild rabbits shouldn't be kept as pets. Pet rabbits have been domesticated. They vary in size from 2 pounds to over 20 pounds, and they have ears that stand up, hang down, or are stuck in the middle. Most notably, their coats come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, from pure albino white to jet black, with plenty of browns and grays in between; their patterns may be striped, spotted, or more unusual.

No Easter bunnies! The chocolate and plush varieties are fine, but live animals don't make good Easter gifts. Learn why »

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