Public urged to leave baby hares alone
A wildlife centre is urging Calgarians to leave baby hares alone after the centre saw a recent influx of the long-eared animals being dropped off by well-meaning citizens who mistakenly believed they were orphans.
Over the weekend a week ago, the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society received 15 hares to its northwest facility. And they continued to have more babies dropped off throughout the week, said executive director Andrea Hunt.
“We still get some hare patients that have been attacked by cats and stuff. But the message is that these little babies, often found in people’s yards, need to be left alone,” Hunt said. “If you don’t see visible injuries, the hare is pretty much OK.”
Hunt said this is the season for both snowshoe and white-tailed prairie hares to have their babies, which are born fully furred with their eyes open. Within hours of birth, they are able to hop around on their own.
Mother hares leave their babies alone in the grass for the whole day, only coming back at dawn and at dusk to feed them.
The baby hares don’t have a scent and are not easily detectable by predators. However, adult hares are scented, so they don’t spend too long with their offspring to keep them out of harm’s way.
“The babies’ response is to freeze, hunker down and hang out when they feel threatened,” Hunt said. “The predator isn’t going to see them and will keep going.”
She said the hares that are brought in, most of them not orphans, are raised to the best of the wildlife centre’s abilities. Staff feed them formula designed specifically for hares.
But the survival rates are low for hares in captivity because of their high stress levels. Last year, of the more than 200 hares brought in over the summer, only 20 per cent survived and were successfully released back into the wild.
Hunt said if people have concerns about where baby hares are situated, they can move the animals within 50 metres of their original location. The mothers will be able to find their babies by calling out them.
If members of the public are not sure what to do, they are encouraged to call the centre at 403-2392488.
“They may look helpless and vulnerable and super cute, but this is their life strategy. This is how they are supposed to live their lives, so we need to step away and step out of that,” Hunt said.
“If we can get that message out, even if 20 people don’t bring in a hare because they saw that message, that means 20 more of those animals get a better chance at life.”