Many people call wildlife rescues asking for help rescuing or relocating cottontail rabbits found in their yards. While it’s wonderful that so many people want to protect wild bunnies, the best way to keep them safe is to simply leave them exactly where they are.
Cottontail mothers are not particularly attentive, and only come to their nests twice a day, morning and evening. This helps prevent predators from finding the nest. If the nest is moved somewhere else in the yard, the mother will never find it, and the babies will starve.
Moving the babies into captivity isn’t a good idea, either. Even with the very best care, cottontails raised by wildlife rehabilitators have extremely high mortality rates, with only a few surviving to release age. Wildlife rehabilitators are the best choice for a truly orphaned or injured rabbit, but a healthy baby animal’s best chance of survival is always with its mother.
Worried about dogs? Don’t be. Cottontails have essentially no smell whatsoever, so your dog won’t be drawn to the nest unless he happens to see the mother during her twice-daily feeds. The mom already chose your yard as a safe place to raise her kits, and wouldn’t have done so if she believed your dog was likely to harm them. You can keep your dog inside at dawn and dusk for extra protection, but the babies’ best chance for survival is still in their own nest.