TECHNIQUE

Accommodation of Casualty Rabbits & Hares (Wildlife Casualty Management)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management/ Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B. This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Accommodation which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Lepus europaeus - Brown hare, Lepus timidus - Mountain hare, Oryctolagus cuniculus - European rabbit.

These species are within the family Leporidae.

Transport container:

Hares - Lepus europaeus - Brown hare, Lepus timidus - Mountain hare:

  • Enclosed box, wooden or cardboard, with ventilation holes low down on the side.
  • Remain quieter if unable to see out.
  • Provide non-slip substrate e.g. a towel.
  • Top-opening box preferred for ease of removal of the casualty.

Oryctolagus cuniculus - European rabbit

  • Enclosed box, wooden or cardboard, with ventilation holes low down on the side.
  • Remain quieter if unable to see out.
  • Wooden carrying boxes 45cm x 30cm x 30cm high, with inner wire mesh lid to allow checking in transit, and ventilation holes (four holes, each 25mm diameter).(B169.24.w24)
  • May be left in a securely-held cotton bag for short journeys. (B169.24.w24)
  • Overheating during transport is less likely in a wooden box with air holes than in a sack. 
  • A top-opening box is preferred for ease of removal of the casualty.

Short term (Immediate/Emergency) Accommodation:

  • Adult casualty rabbits and particularly hares are highly stressed and should be kept in a quiet, warm and dimly lit environment.
  • Place in a secure cardboard box lined with newspaper covered with a towel for grip. 
  • Ensure adequate ventilation holes are present within the container.
  • Keep away from the sight sound or smell of cats, dogs and other wild predator species.
  • Supplementary heat, if required, should be provided at one end of the container so that a temperature gradient is provided and the animal can choose its preferred temperature.

Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation:

Hares - Lepus europaeus - Brown hare, Lepus timidus - Mountain hare

  • Keep away from noise and general disturbance, e.g. in an isolated shed.(B151)
  • Hares should be kept in small enclosed pens. It is important that they do not have sufficient area to gather speed in flight or they may cause serious injure to themselves.
  • Large size robust plastic transport kennel (e.g. Vari Kennel) may be used.
  • Provide a wooden box or other shelter within the pen for security.
  • Provide ample bedding for warmth and shelter to hide within, such as hay.
  • Supplementary heat, if required, should be provided at one end of the container so that a temperature gradient is provided and the animal can choose its preferred temperature.

Oryctolagus cuniculus - European rabbit

  • Any large cage.(B151)
  • Large size robust plastic transport kennel  (e.g. Vari Kennel) may be used.
  • Provide a wooden box or other shelter within the pen for security.
  • Provide ample bedding for warmth and shelter to hide within, such as hay.
  • Supplementary heat, if required, should be provided at one end of the container so that a temperature gradient is provided and the animal can choose its preferred temperature.

Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation:

  • Secluded grass paddock. 
  • Box/hutch with bedding such as hay should be provided for shelter and seclusion.
  • Secure perimeter fence with wire netting buried to a reasonable depth to prevent rabbits in particular burrowing and escaping.
  • Check the perimeter of the paddock on a daily basis for evidence of digging to prevent escape.
  • Ample natural vegetation for food and cover.
  • Ensure that no agrochemicals are used in the paddock.
  • Loose earth should be available for burrowing.

(B151, B169.24.w24, D25, D28, V.w26)

Appropriate Use (?)
  • Short-term (Immediate / Emergency) Accommodation is designed to be used for a short period of time only, e.g. prior to examination, to allow basic first-aid to be carried out, while an animal requires intensive care, or while specialist accommodation is being prepared.
    • The most important requirements are warmth, quiet and dark or dim lighting.
  • Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation is designed for the short-term care of individual animals or groups of animals, particularly during treatment and rehabilitation.
    • Hospital accommodation is commonly constructed with hygiene and easy cleaning as the main considerations, but the specific needs of the patients, including behavioural needs, should also be considered.
  • Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation facilities for wildlife are generally larger and more complex than accommodation designed only for temporary occupancy.
    • In general this type of accommodation is not suitable for animals which require daily treatment.
    • A period in rehabilitation accommodation may be particularly important when an animal has been hospitalised for some time.
Notes
  • Ensure accommodation is in a quiet area, away from humans, cats, dogs and other predators, and provides shelter.
  • Ensure sufficient ventilation holes are present in transport and short term accommodation containers.
  • Perimeter fence of long-term accommodation must be able to keep the occupants in and predators such as foxes out.
  • Overheating during transport is less likely in a wooden box with air holes than in a sack. (D25)
  • If an animal is maintained in long-term care accommodation for a substantial period of time, the animal must have some form of environmental enrichment to encourage natural behaviours (possibly through food presentation techniques, cage furniture that encourages activity, or play items that would be found in its native environment). This is to reduce the risk of boredom as the animal becomes accustomed to its enclosure and the possible development of behavioural problems. (V.w6)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Traditional wooden hutches may be difficult to sterilise.
  • Metal kennels are inappropriate as they are too noisy and cold. (V.w26)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Most materials required for the construction of cages and rehabilitation enclosures may be obtained from standard fencing or farm-equipment stores.
  • Appropriate plastic pet-carriers/kennels are available from many pet stores and other animal equipment suppliers.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Construction of longer-term accommodation requires some expertise.
Cost/ Availability
  • Large size robust plastic pet carriers are relatively expensive.
  • Material and labour for construction of long term accommodation may be expensive.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Accommodation for casualty wild animals should be designed to minimise the stress on the animal and to minimise the risk of injury to that animal.
  • A wild animal in captivity is protected under the same welfare legislation as domestic animals, e.g. Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000; under this legislation it is an offence to treat a captive animal cruelly or to cause it unnecessary suffering.
    • This includes an obligation to provide proper attention and care.
    • The keeper has a duty to keep all wildlife casualties in a fit manner, in accommodation of a size which allows reasonable movement and with an environment suitable for its normal way of life.
    • (J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1, D27, D28)
  • Accommodation which does not fulfil the physiological and psychological requirements of the animal and results in an inadequate level of fitness at the time of release may seriously compromise the survival ability of that animal. Release of an animal which is unfit may be an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960.(J35.147.w1, W5.Jan01)
  • Risks to human health, both physical and risk of zoonotic illness must be minimised: Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.
  • An offence may be committed under article 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 if a species on Schedule 9 of that Act, or a species not ordinarily resident in the UK is allowed to escape from accommodation in which it is being housed.
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman
References

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