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Imperiled baby bunnies saved by caring cattleman

Staff writer

Prospective future “Easter bunnies” have a county rancher to thank for saving them from possible slavering jaws of death.

Mark Harms was clearing an area for a construction project in the family’s backyard March 16 near Lincolnville when he discovered four fuzzy cottontail babies nestled inside a fluff ball nest under a tin sheet.

“They wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t moved them,” Harms said. “We at least gave them a shot at life.”

His wife, Kim, said the family frequently finds rabbits in their yard and refers to some as “baby Easter bunnies.” However, sometimes their dogs sniff out the babies to a grisly end.

“I guess the momma rabbits think our yard is a good place to build their nests,” Kim said, “but the dogs would have killed them if they had found them.”

She said the baby bunnies were in a “real cute stage,” each with a white streak on its forehead.

The Harmses relocated the nest by transporting it about 10 feet in a rubber feed pan. Mark said they did not actually touch the babies so as not to transfer their scent and possibly scare off their mother.

“Mark got his hands down underneath the nest, under the divot the momma made, and then we put them under a propane tank that other rabbits have lived under,” Kim said. “We put some branches there, too, to help hide them.”

Mark chose the location so the momma bunny could find her babies. He also didn’t let Kim or his kids open the nest any further than what it already was because he didn’t want to expose the bunnies to the elements.

“Mark never lets us touch them,” Kim said. “I just know it’s hard not to touch them. I’m worse than the kids.”

It snowed the next day, but Mark said he noticed a big rabbit around the propane tank. He was worried about the cold snap that came through. However, he wanted to wait a little longer to check on the babies for fear of exposing them to the elements.

“I don’t know what their survivability is, but the cold would’ve killed them,” he said. “We just hope they make it.”

She loves her husband’s compassion for animals and the natural world.

“He doesn’t like to see any animal suffer,” Kim said.

In the past, she said her husband has gone to great pains to save other rabbits, prairie chickens, and injured calves.

“Sometimes people out there think of ranchers as barbarians because we raise beef for a living,” Harms said. “The intent is to produce food and protein to feed the world, but we care about the animals we raise and have a respect for nature and life.”

As for the baby Easter bunnies, if they survive the cold, Kim said the family plans to bottle-feed them if the momma bunny does not find them, and continue to raise them.

Last modified March 31, 2016

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