CALGARY -- Some of the first born in the spring season are baby hares commonly called jackrabbits.  They are born with their eyes open and they are fully furred, unlike domestic rabbits. Within a day of being born, they are able to move around and even nibble on grass.

Holly Lillie, the executive director of the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC),  says the mother intentionally leaves them alone throughout the day, returning only a couple of times typically at dusk and dawn to feed them. They are adapted to being alone, and it is completely natural for them to run around and be in a different spot from where their mother left them.

The challenge for staff at AIWC is that  when many people find one of these infant hares alone, they mistake them for being orphaned, collect them and bring them to the facility.

“It’s less than a 10 percent success rate when they come in to wildlife centres and this is world wide so no one has found the cure for how to go through the process more smoothly,” said Lillie.  “So they really have the best chance out in the wild and also we don’t want to be kidnapping them either.”

Last year the institute cared for over 140 hares.  AIWC is urging well-intentioned members of the public  that ‘if you see a baby hare, leave him or her there!’

Wildlife baby season

Hares are born without a scent so they are less likely to be found by predators. Lillie added that it is OK to pick them up if you see them on street, in a window well, or in danger.

“Mom will find her young within a block of where she left them,” said Lillie.  “It’s not true that hares will abandon their young if there’s human scent on there, that’s a myth.”

Since 1993, AIWC has been a champion for the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned wildlife. It’s accredited through the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association and serves the needs of Alberta’s diverse wildlife in Calgary and southern Alberta.

Right now staff are also caring for other patients including two bear cubs, songbirds and raptors.  They rely on charitable donations to rehabilitate all the wildlife and they’ve seen that a decrease in donations is likely because of the pandemic.  The institute has been deemed an essential service and will still provide care to injured and orphaned animals.

“There’s no sign of a slow down for us due to the pandemic," said Lillie. "In fact it’s actually ramped up so the demand for our services has definitely increased."

Staff recommend that before intervening, when you see an animal you might think needs help, to call their Wildlife Hotline at 403-946-2361 for assistance.

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