TECHNIQUE

Hand-rearing Hares and Jack-rabbits (Lepus spp.)
Click here for full page view with caption Feeding leveret. Click here for full page view with caption Feeding leveret. Click here for full page view with caption Feeding leveret. Click here for full page view with caption Hand-feeding a leveret. Click here for full page view with caption Initial cage with towel nest. Click here for full page view with caption Small cage for leveret. Click here for full page view with caption Small and larger cages. Click here for full page view with caption Outdoor run for leverets. Click here for full page view with caption Outdoor run for leverets. Click here for full page view with caption Shelter for outside run. Click here for full page view with caption Outdoor run and hutch for leverets. Click here for full page view with caption Leveret eating dandelion. Click here for full page view with caption Pre-release leverets in travel cage. Click here for full page view with caption Leveret release area. Click here for full page view with caption

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Mammal Husbandry and Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B. This information should be read in association with Rearing of Mammals (Mammal Husbandry and Management) and Hand-rearing of Orphaned Wildlife which contain background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations.
Description This page has been prepared for the "Rabbits and their Relatives: Health and Management" Wildpro volume, and is designed for the needs of Lepus spp. leverets 

These species are within the family Leporidae.

  • Lagomorphs are not considered easy to hand-rear. (B156.12.w12)
  • Note: Healthy leverets are normally left alone in areas of grassland during the day (normal behaviour). Members of the public may find such a leveret and mistakenly assume that it has been abandoned by its parents and is in need of care. Where possible, the public should be educated that this is normal behaviour and such youngsters should be left alone unless they are obviously sick, injured or in immediate danger. (W729.Dec08.w2, V.w145)
    • If a leveret is in immediate danger and must be moved a short distance, rubbing the hands in grass or other vegetation then pulling up clumps of vegetation and using picking up the leveret between two such clumps of grass will minimise transfer of human scent to the leveret. (V.w145)
  • Note: it is important to ensure that the infant has been correctly identified. Leverets (Lepus spp., including jackrabbits) are precocial; they are born fully furred, have their eyes open, are mobile from a few minutes after birth, and are left above ground. Leverets which allow themselves to be picked up are probably very young, still suckling and will need to be hand-reared and bottle fed. (B284.10.w10, J82.16.w2, N35.12.w1, V.w145)
    • Note: a newborn leveret, still fully dependent on milk, may appear similar in size and general appearance to a just-weaned rabbit. (B284.10.w10, N35.12.w1)

Initial Care: 

General mammal information: 

  • On arrival any young mammal should be weighed, warmed (not too quickly if severely chilled), stimulated to urinate/defecate and given supplementary fluids by an appropriate route to counteract dehydration. 
  • The age should be determined if possible. (See individual species information pages, sections "Appearance - Neonate" and "Life Stages - Reproductive stages").
  • The first feed given should be an oral rehydration (electrolyte) solution (e.g. Lectade, Pfizer Limited), with a gradual changeover to a milk substitute over several feeds.
  • For further general information see: 

General Care (including warmth and hygiene):

General mammal information

  • Keep out of draughts but ensure ventilation is adequate.
  • Provide a temperature range, e.g. by heating one end of the container more than the other, which, while not allowing either overheating or chilling, permits the animal to chose the position at which it feels most comfortable.
  • The container used should be sufficiently large to allow the occupant to move into a comfortable position.
  • The sides of the container should be sufficiently high to prevent the occupant falling out.
  • Bedding materials should be soft, comfortable and either disposable or easily washed. They should keep the animal dry and be changed as frequently as necessary to prevent soiling.
  • (B194, P3.1987.w5, V.w5)

Hare and Jackrabbit specific information:

  • House in a quiet undisturbed area. (J23.35.w2, W729.Dec08.w1, V.w145)
    • If rearing at home, keeping the leveret(s) initially in a quiet room which is not in constant use and once they are feeding well, preferably in a shed or similar building which provides a quiet area away from the domestic environment. (V.w145)
  • Minimise both visual stress and noise. Provide nesting areas/hiding boxes. (J311.7.w1)
  • Keep the cage and bedding clean and disinfect the cage etc. regularly, making sure that no residue of disinfectant is left and that the cage is dry before the leveret is returned to it. (V.w145)

Suggested cages

  • For very young leverets only a small area is required as they will not move much initially. A wire small mammal cage with a plastic base can be used. Line the base with newspaper, make a nest shape with a towel or piece of fleece inside the cage and settle the leveret in the towel-nest. (V.w145)
    • After a few days, a slightly larger cage can be used, with a towel nest at one end and a layer of hay at the other end. (V.w145)
    • The towel/fleece can be removed after the first 48 hours. (V.w145)
    • The hay should be changed every second day initially, later every day. (V.w145)
    • Once the leverets start to move around, a larger cage is needed - a 4 ft x 2 ft cage lined with newspaper and hay has been used for Lepus europaeus - Brown hare leverets. (W729.Dec08.w1)
  • Initially a pet carrier or similar sized cardboard box. This can be lined with a towel (not one which is fraying) or similar. (J311.7.w1)
    • Give access to a larger area for exercise daily. (J311.7.w1)
    • Provide hiding areas/nest boxes. (J311.7.w1)
    • After weaning, use a solid-sided and solid-topped area (cloth can be used to cover wire if the enclosure has wire sides). (J311.7.w1)
      • A front-opening rather than top-opening area is recommended to reduce jumping when the enclosure is entered by the caretaker. (J311.7.w1)
  • Provide housing of at least four body-lengths of space: e.g. a large pet carrier initially, with grass hay or soft cloth over newspaper as bedding. (N35.12.w1)
    • Provide natural light or light from a full-spectrum bulb. (N35.12.w1)
    • From 2 - 6 weeks of age, give a space 18" x 18" x 12" high (45 x 45 x 30 cm) - (small enough to avoid problems chasing the leverets to catch them for feeding); (N35.12.w1)
    • At 6 - 12 weeks, an area 10 ft x 10 ft x 4 ft high (3m x 3 m x 1.2 m approx. (N35.12.w1)
    • After 12 weeks old, moving into pre-release accommodation of 10 x 20 x 8 ft. (N35.12.w1)
    • Based on Book Ref. 375 - Minimum Standards for Wildlife Rehabilitation Third Edition - Full text included
  • For gregarious species (e.g. Lepus californicus - Black-tailed jackrabbit), while neonates should be kept separate, weanlings and older juveniles can be mixed. Youngsters of different ages will sleep together, eat together and groom one another. (N35.12.w1)

Heating

  • Make sure that the ambient temperature in the room or shed is adequate. If necessary (if the temperature is cold) provide additional heating using a heat pad for controllable warmth; this may only be needed at night, depending on the temperature. Hot water bottles can be used but are not ideal; if used, they should be well wrapped in a towel. Make sure the leveret can move away from the heat source to avoid overheating. (V.w145)
  • For Lepus europaeus - Brown hare warmth may be provided by infra red light until 15 days old, depending on the ambient temperature. (J23.28.w1)
  • Initially a heating pad can be placed at one end of the box, set on a low heat; this may not be needed at higher ambient temperatures. (J311.7.w1)
  • Make sure no electrical wires, heating pads etc. are in reach of the leveret(s) as leverets will gnaw. (N35.12.w1)

Outside run

  • Keep outside as soon as possible, in a secure run with netting no larger than one inch (2.5 cm) and a weatherproof box with dry bedding. The run should be moveable to provide constant access to fresh grass. (B224)
  • An outside run on grass can be made available after the first few days (from about four days), weather permitting. The leveret can be left in this during the day. There must be a shelter/cover such as a wooden box, and it is important the the run is secure from predators such as cats - for example weigh it down with bricks. (V.w145)
  • Older leverets (from about a month old) can be left in an outside run with attached hutch. A door to the hutch should be left open, providing the leverets with access to both outside and inside areas at all times. (V.w145)
  • A dust bath - a turf of grass with some dry soil in a cat litter tray - is appreciated by the leverets to roll in. (V.w145)

Milk replacer:

  • Suggested milk replacers include:
    • Esbilac (Pet Ag). (B151, J34.9.w1, P3.1987.w3)
    • Welpi (Hoechst UK Ltd.), mixed one part powder to two parts warm water, with 0.3 mL multivitamins (Abidec, Parke-Davis) added once daily has been used for Lepus europaeus - Brown hare from about two days old. (J23.28.w1)
    • KMR (Pet-Ag Inc, Illinois USA). (B156.12.w12, N35.12.w1)
    • Esbilac (Pet Ag), possibly with egg yolk to increase fat and protein, or with added Multi-Milk (Pet-Ag, Illinois). (B156.12.w12)
    • KMR or Esbilac (Pet Ag), possibly with added egg yolk (P19.1.w5), or Multi-Milk (Pet-Ag, Illinois).
    • Goats milk or lamb milk replacer. (D25)
    • Cow's milk with added vitamins has been used successfully to rear black-naped hare (Lepus nigricollis - Indian hare) leverets. (J23.35.w2)
    • Goats milk - fresh or fresh-frozen - for Lepus californicus - Black-tailed jackrabbit leverets. (N35.12.w1)
    • Ewe's milk substitute such as Lamlac, mixed as per the manufacturer's instructions. (W729.Dec08.w1)
    • Half cup canned evaporated milk, one egg yolk, half a cup water, one teaspoon of honey, one teaspoon of Abidec baby vitamins. Consider adding a little 90% protein powder. (B64.22.w8)
    • 120 mL water, 120 mL canned evaporated milk, 15 mL Karo syrup (used successfully for Lepus californicus - Black-tailed jackrabbit). (B64.22.w8)
  • Note:  a probiotic (e.g. Avipro, Vetark Professional) can be used mixed with the milk. This has been used as follws: Avipro made up in solution to the required volume of water for feeding, then this mixed with milk powder to make up the feeds for the day. (V.w145)

Utensils:

  • Catac puppy or kitten bottle with small teat. (B151)
  • Syringe and small rubber teat. (D24)
  • Use a pet nursing bottle, or a 2 - 3 mL syringe. (W729.Dec08.w1)
  • Use a "Catac" kitten teat on a syringe - initially a 1 mL syringe, moving to a larger syringe (2 mL, 5 mL, 10 mL, 20 mL) as the leveret grows and the quantity of milk increases. (W729.Dec08.w1, V.w145)
    • Use of a syringe rather than a feeding bottle increases the care taker's control over the rate of milk intake (B338.1.w1, W729.Dec08.w1), reducing the risk of milk being inhaled -which can lead to inhalation pneumonia (Aspiration Pneumonia). (W729.Dec08.w1)
  • Keep utensils clean and sterilise e.g. in boiling water. (V.w145)

Feeding Frequency:

Hare and Jackrabbit specific information:

In the wild, Lepus spp. are fed only once daily. However, milk substitutes used for hand-rearing are less concentrated than the milk produced by female Lepus spp., and the volume which can be given at one time is limited by the size of the leveret's stomach, therefore more frequent feeding may be required. The ideal number of feeds per day might vary depending on the milk replacer used.

  • Three (W729.Dec08.w1) or four (J23.35.w2) feeds a day may be needed initially for the first few days (ideally only to two or three days, but sometimes to five days). (J23.35.w2, W729.Dec08.w1)
  • Start feeding three to six times a day, reducing gradually so only one feed a day is being given by weaning at four to six weeks. (B284.10.w10)
  • Twice a day (J23.35.w2, W729.Dec08.w1) or three times a day (J23.35.w2) feeding after the first few days.
  • Feed only twice a day, 12 hours apart initially. (J311.7.w1)
    • Do not feed more than twice a day. (J311.7.w1)
    • Once the leveret is eating solid food on a regular basis, reduce milk to once daily. (J311.7.w1)
  • Twice daily feeds only. (B151)
  • Note: Lepus alleni - Antelope jackrabbit have been noted to be markedly nocturnal from as young as two days old, suckling well in the morning, late afternoon and at night but refusing milk in the middle of the day. (J469.424.w1)

Feeding Technique: 

  • When feeding very small neonates it is vital that the feeding technique used provides milk at a sufficiently slow rate to minimise the risk of milk being inhaled with resultant aspiration pneumonia. (V.w26)

Hare and Jackrabbit specific information:

  • Make up the calculated required amount of milk daily. For each feed, warm the amount of milk to be fed and preferably keep it art the correct temperature during the feeding. Discard heated unused milk. Discard unused mixed milk after 24 hours. (W729.Dec08.w1)
  • Initially wear the same clothes, and use the same towel on your lap during feeding, so the scent is familiar. As the leverets grow used to the process, fresh towels etc. can be used. (W729.Dec08.w1)
  • Place one hand over the leveret to restrain it during feeding. (B338.1.w1, W729.Dec08.w1)
    • Or cover the eyes with a hand or cloth; this appears to increase the infant's comfort level, improving feeding. (B338.1.w1)
  • Place the tip of the syringe (or the teat) into the corner of the infant's mouth. (B338.1.w1)
  • After each feed, wipe any milk formula off the infant's face. (B338.1.w1)
  • Note: when feeding a litter, if they are eating green foods (e.g. from 8 - 10 days in Lepus europaeus - Brown hares), provide dandelion leaves, parsley etc. for the leverets to nibble while waiting their turn to be fed. (V.w145)

Quantities:

Calculations:

  • Energy requirement is approximately 2 x (70 x (bodyweight kg)0.75) (i.e. 2 x basal metabolic rate - see Food and Feeding for Mammals - Convalescent diets / Nutritional support). For a 30 g neonate this would be 10.1 kcal per day. (B338.1.w1)
  • Energy intake (kilocalories per day) = 200-250 x weight(kg) 0.83. (P19.1.w5, P3.1987.w3)
    • Based on daily milk energy intake in nursing infants at the time of peak lactation. (P3.1987.w3)
  • Feed approximately 10% body weight per day, divided between the number of feeds given. (J34.9.w1)
  • The maximum amount (volume) that can be given at any one time is determined by the stomach capacity. This is 100 - 125 mL per kg bodyweight (1 mL per 10 g bodyweight). [2002](B338.1.w1)
    • A maximum of 50 mL per kg bodyweight at any one feed. [1984](J311.7.w1)
Practical feeding:
  • Avoid overfeeding. The belly should be full and round but not taut/distended after each feed. (J311.7.w1, W729.Dec08.w1)
  • Allow the leverets to take as much as they want at each feed initially. (J311.7.w1)
    • The belly should be round but not distended after each feeding. (J311.7.w1)
    • Even very young leverets can be expected to take 6 mL at a feed. (J311.7.w1)
    • Give a maximum of 50 mL per kg bodyweight. (J311.7.w1)
    • Avoid overfeeding which is likely to lead to diarrhoea; underfeeding is better than overfeeding. (J311.7.w1)
    • Once the leveret is eating solid food on a regular basis, start reducing the amount of formula fed, aiming to wean by three weeks of age. (J311.7.w1)
  • Start with 1 - 5 mL per feed in very young leverets (Lepus europaeus - Brown hare) ( feeding three to six times a day). The volume given per feed increases gradually to 20 - 40 mL; maximum intake per day will be about 100 mL at 2- 3 weeks of age, and intake then reduces. (B284.10.w10)
  • Example for Lepus europaeus - Brown hare: (W729.Dec08.w1)
    • Days 1 - 3: 15 - 25 mL per day divided over three feeds (plus 1 mL Avipro probiotic). Weight about 100 g.
    • Days 4 - 6: 25 - 40 mL divided over two feeds (plus 1 mL Avipro probiotic). Weight about 160 g.
    • Days 7-10: 40 - 55 mL divided over two feeds. Weight about 250 g.
    • 11-18 days: 55 - 65 mL divided over two feeds. Weight about 330 g.
    • 19-22 days: 65 - 90 mL divided over two feeds (fresh and dried grasses etc. now being eaten). Weight about 425 g.
    • 23 -24 days 55 mL in one evening feed only. Weight about 525 g.
    • 25 - 26 days 85 mL in one evening feed only. Weight about 620 g.
    • 27 - 28 days 90 mL in one evening feed only. Weight about 680 g
    • 29 - 30 days: 70 mL in one evening feed only. Weight about 715 g.
    • 31 days onward (weight about 765 g) milk reduced, offered in a bowl to lap: 31-32 days 40 mL, 33 - 34 days 30 mL, 35 - 36 days, 20 mL, 37 - 38 days 10 mL, 39 days (weight 945 g) onwards no milk. Reaching about 1140 g by 50 days (released).
  • Example for black-naped hare (Lepus nigricollis - Indian hare): 
    • Estimated 1 - 2 days old: 12 mL total feed volume per day. Weight three days after arrival, 180 g.
    • 11 - 15 days: 50 - 70 mL per day
    • 16 - 20 days: 57 - 85 mL per day
    • 21 - 25 days: 73 - 124 ml per day
    • 26 - 30 days: 118 - 126 mL per day
    • 31 - 35 days: 112 - 138 mL per day (body weight of about 750g)
    • 36 - 40 days: 110 - 124 mL per day
    • 41 days onwards: weaned. (J23.35.w2)
  • Example for Lepus californicus - Black-tailed jackrabbit. (B64.22.w8)
    • Newborn, 2 mL per feed every 12 hours. (B64.22.w8)
    • By day four: 15 mL per feed. (B64.22.w8)

Toileting/Elimination: 

  • Most infant mammals require gentle stimulation of the ano-genital area (using e.g. a damp cotton bud, damp cotton wool or damp soft paper towel) in order to urinate and defecate. This should be done when the animal is first presented and at every feed until voluntary elimination is observed.

Hare and Jackrabbit specific information:

  • Stimulation of the urogenital area to encourage urination and defecation may not be required, but should be given to hand-reared individuals. (B284.10.w10)
  • It is often stated that toileting is not required for leverets. (J23.28.w1, J23.35.w2, J311.7.w1)
    • However, urination and defecation should be monitored. (J311.7.w1)
    • Note: in the wild, observation of Lepus europaeus - Brown hares showed that females do lick their leverets and almost certainly consume their urine while they are suckling, for about four weeks of the nursing period. Leverets were noted to turn onto their backs towards the end of suckling and the female licked the genital area of each leveret. (J46.191.w1)
  • Elimination should be encouraged when the leveret is first presented, by gently stroking the genital area with a cotton wool ball damped in warm water. (V.w145)
  • Usually leverets will urinate during or after each feed. Monitor urination and defecation.
    • Damp patches from urination should be detectable on the towel bedding. (V.w145)
    • Faeces should appear as tiny black balls, getting larger as the leveret grows. (V.w145)
    • Changes in faeces are a sign of a problem - get veterinary advice if they become yellow and runny, or if defecation stops. (V.w145)
  • After each feed, wipe any milk formula off the infant's face. (B338.1.w1)

Weighing: 

  • If more than one infant is being reared in a litter, the infants may be marked in a safe manner e.g. using small amount of a non-toxic coloured correction fluid such as Tippex in order to allow individual identification and monitoring. (V.w26)

Hare and Jackrabbit specific information:

  • Food colouring, applied to the inside of the ear with a cotton tip, can be used for identification of individuals in a litter. (V.w145)
  • The leveret should be weighed daily to both monitor weight gain and allow calculation of the quantity of milk to be given. (B284.10.w10, W729.Dec08.w1)
    • Accurate, regular weighing allows progress to be monitored objectively and can give an early warning of problems. (B284.10.w10)
    • Regular weighing is also needed to calculate the amount to be fed. (B338.1.w1)
    • Later, weighing every second day is sufficient, but return to daily weighing for more accurate monitoring for a few days during major changes in routine such as reducing the number of feeds per day. (W729.Dec08.w1)
  • In general, a steady weight gain should be sought. Occasional lack of weight gain for 24 - 48 hours may occur; longer lack of gain is abnormal. (B338.1.w1)
    • A slight loss of weight (a few grams) may occur initially until the leveret settles into feeding. (V.w145)
    • If weight gain is inadequate, recalculate the caloric requirements, check the infant's general health, and if problems with weight gain recur, consider changing to a different milk replacement formula for future rearing. (B338.1.w1)
  • Also note body condition, which should be kept good or average. (B338.1.w1)
  • Lepus europaeus - Brown hare
    • Body weight increased 10-20 g daily to day 12 old, then approximately 25 g daily to day 24 old. (J23.28.w1)
    • Expect a 5 - 20 g a day weight increase, depending on age. (V.w145)

Weaning:

Providing caecotrophs:

Weaning foods

  • Offer fresh grasses (from an area known not to be sprayed with pesticides), forbs, apples etc. at all times from the first day. (J23.35.w2, J311.7.w1)
  • Introduce novel foods slowly. (J311.7.w1)
  • Fresh green foods such as grass and broad-leafed flowering plants (forbs) should be provided from an early age. This can be achieved by placing the leverets outside in a run on a grassed area to graze, (B196, J23.35.w2, J311.7.w1, W729.Dec08.w1) and/or providing appropriate green foods in the indoor box/pen. 
    • Fresh and dried grasses, forbs (broad-leafed flowering plants such as clover, dandelions, local native vegetation etc.) and hay should be offered. (B151, B196)
    • Offer a selection of green leafy vegetables plus grass hay, from about five days old. (B338.1.w1)
    • Make sure grasses and other wild plants are taken from an area which is known not to have been sprayed with pesticides. (J311.7.w1)
    • Offer green food finely chopped initially to make it easier to eat, since it is not anchored as growing green food would be. (B338.1.w1)
    • Access to grazing can be provided in a wire-bottomed run which prevents access by vermin and predators, and with provision of protection from the weather from an early age. (B196)
    • Grazing or grass and clover may eaten by as early as one week old along with green plants such as dandelion leaves, plantain, green lettuce, sowthistles; offer milk for lapping by three weeks and thicken with baby cereal by four weeks. Consumption of milk is likely to cease by five to six weeks old. (B224)
    • Grass, dandelion leaves/flowers, parsley and thyme can be provided; Lepus europaeus - Brown hares start to nibble green food from about 8 - 10 days. (V.w145)
  • Other foods which have been offered to successfully-reared leverets include:
    • Carrot (B196, N35.12.w1)
      • Not recommended; too high in sugars. (B338.1.w1)
    • Apple (B196)
      • Not recommended; too high in sugars. (B338.1.w1)
    • Oatmeal (N35.12.w1)
    • Green lettuce e.g. romaine lettuce. (N35.12.w1) 
      • Not iceberg lettuce.
    • Green leafy vegetables. (N35.12.w1)
    • Grains. (B196)
    • Wholemeal bread. (B196, N35.12.w1)
    • Milupa infant foods (fruit varieties). (J23.28.w1)
  • Provide water in a shallow, heavy bowl. (B338.1.w1, J311.7.w1, N35.12.w1)
    • Place the bowl against a bush, box or other large object to reduce the risk of it being spilt. Do not place the bowl against the side of the enclosure, as leverets tend to run along the sides. (N35.12.w1)
    • Consider the normal habitat: desert-living jackrabbits should obtain most of their moisture from food, rather than from water. (N35.12.w1)
  • Make soil available. (J23.28.w1, V.w145)
    • Wild hares have been seen eating soil, possibly for minerals. (N35.12.w1)

Reducing provision of milk:

  • Once leverets are eating solid foods, start reducing the amount of formula provided. (N35.12.w1)
  • Black-naped hare (Lepus nigricollis - Indian hare) 
    • Began eating solid food at about 10 - 12 days old (estimated). (J23.35.w1)
    • By 31 - 33 days old, about 150g/day of grass and forbs (herbaceous flowering plant other than a grass) eaten 
  • Hares (data from Lepus europaeus - Brown hare): 
    • Small amounts of e.g. grass may be eaten from as early as nine days old.
    • A variety of foods are taken readily from 11 days old. (J23.28.w1)
    • Milk consumption may continue to e.g. 36 days old.
    • Leverets should be housed in an outside run by 21 days old. (J23.28.w1)
    • (J23.28.w1)
    • Grass eaten by about 10-12 days old and by a Lepus nigricollis nigricollis - Black-naped hare leveret.(J23.35.w2)
    • Offer grass and forbs from arrival, although these may not be eaten at all until the orphan is about 10 days old. (J23.35.w2)

Release:

Appropriate Use (?)
  • Wild animals should not be taken for hand rearing unless they are definitely orphaned or abandoned, injured/visibly unwell, or in immediate danger.
  • Healthy leverets, left alone during the day (normal behaviour) may be picked up as "abandoned" by members of the public. Where possible, the public should be educated that this is normal behaviour and such youngsters should be left alone unless sick/injured or in immediate danger.
  • For further information see: Rearing of Mammals (Mammal Husbandry and Management) - Hand-rearing
Notes
  • Preferably have only one person rearing/handling the orphan. (J23.35.w2, W729.Dec08.w1)
  • An ordinary outdoor thermometer may be used to indicate the temperature in the container used to house the orphan. (B194)
  • Routine records should be maintained of daily weight, times of each feed, quantities of milk consumed, urine/faeces production, solid food eaten and general condition/demeanour. Such records provide an objective means of assessing progress and provide useful data for improving rearing methods. (V.w5, V.w145)
  • If more than one individual is being hand-reared, individual marking is needed e.g. with liquid food colouring on the inside of one ear. (W729.Dec08.w1)
  • Wild leverets which are to be released should not be tamed; handling should be minimised. (B338.1.w1)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Hares may be difficult to hand-rear. (B156.12.w12, D24)
  • Risk of injury due to severe flight reaction when transferred to a larger enclosure after weaning. (J23.35.w2)
  • There is a risk of Aspiration Pneumonia from inhalation of milk replacer. (B284.10.w10, V.w145)
  • Gastrointestinal problems are common when rearing leverets. (J311.7.w1)
    • Allowing adequate room for exercise can help prevent gas build-up in the intestines. (J311.7.w1)
    • Avoiding overfeeding can help reduce the risk of diarrhoea. (J311.7.w1)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • KMR (Pet-Ag Inc, Illinois USA).
  • Esbilac (Pet Ag, Kruus UK Ltd., Unit 17, Moor Lane Industrial Estate, Sherburn in Elmet, North Yorkshire, LS25 6ES) (PetAg Inc, Illinois, USA).
  • Welpi (Hoechst UK ltd., PO Box 18, Hounslow, Middlesex TW4 6JH). Available from pet stores.
  • Multi-Milk (Pet-Ag Inc., Illinois, USA).
  • Abidec multi-vitamin drops (Parke-Davis, Pontypool, Gwent, UK. Available from chemists).
  • Milupa (Milupa, White Horse Business Park, Trowbridge, WILTS BA14 0XB): from supermarkets, chemists etc 
  • Lamlac - from farm supply shops/agricultural feed suppliers.
  • Avipro, Vetark Professional.
  • Kitten feeding teats.
  • Syringes of various sizes, starting with 1 mL. 
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Not easy to hand-rear. If the carer does not have experience with these species advice should be sought from experienced rehabilitators and other people with expertise with these species. 
  • Considerable time commitment involved.
  • Manual dexterity is important for caring for these small individuals.
  • Requires empathy, observation skills and the ability to "read" the animals' body language.
  • Experience with hand-rearing is useful and is likely to greatly increase the success rate.
Cost/ Availability
  • Products and equipment are all widely available and are not particularly expensive.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Non-injured leverets which were picked up after being found "abandoned" should be returned to their exact original location and monitored discreetly to determine whether the female will return to nurse the infant. (D24)
  • Hand-rearing should not be started unless the carer is prepared to give the time and effort required for rearing to release, or to ensure that appropriate care will be continued through to release.
  • For free-living individuals, consider whether hand-rearing is the best option for the individual compared to leaving it in the wild.
  • Consider whether euthanasia is a more humane/kinder option for the individual than attempting hand-rearing.
  • In the UK, an offence may be committed under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960 Section 1 if a released animal does not have a reasonable chance of survival (i.e. a chance similar to its non-rehabilitated peers). It is an offence under this Act for a person having control or charge of an animal to abandon it permanently or otherwise in circumstances likely to cause unnecessary suffering. This may include release at an unsuitable site, in the wrong territory, unfit, not having learned to hunt, at the wrong time of year etc. (J35.147.w1, B156.21.w21, B223, W5.Jan01)
Author Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
Referee Tiffany Blackett BVetMed MRCVS (V.w44); Susan McClure (V.w145)
References

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