Can a Wild Rabbit Survive a Broken Leg? Should I help it?
You’re driving home one day and notice a little bunny in the middle of the road. You stop the car and approach it. It doesn’t move. When you get close enough you realize something’s wrong. It has a broken leg.
So the question here is, can a wild rabbit survive a broken leg?
While a broken leg isn’t necessarily a death sentence, the question boils down to the severity of the injury. A rabbit needs its legs to evade dangerous situations. In the wild, rabbits are usually considered prey and a broken leg can really hurt their chances of survival.
If you find yourself looking at an injured rabbit in this situation, I’ve come up with a few steps you should take into consideration.
How dangerous are broken legs for wild rabbits?
Like most other animals of prey, rabbits rely heavily on their legs to get food and evade danger. If a rabbit’s leg were broken, the chances of surviving in the wild would be drastically lowered.
In the wild, it’s not easy for rabbits to survive even if they were in good health with no injuries. Losing the use of a major limb even temporarily will make every living a struggle. They would become easy prey for any predator that was quick to kill.
Honestly, its survivability would largely depend on if the environment and all the predators around it. If the wild rabbit lives in an area with little to no predators, there’s a higher chance of it healing and eventually living a normal life.
If the rabbit were to live in an area with owls, hawks, eagles, falcons, foxes, wild dogs, feral cats, and ground squirrels then I’m afraid either it would starve or get killed eventually.
Complications from a broken leg
Underneath the skin, a broken bone may be more complicated than it sounds. Yes, broken bones can heal, but it’s the complications that come from a broken bone. The severity of the injury and have a great effect on the rabbit’s prognosis.
Rabbits can experience shock, internal bleeding, and even paralysis. Imagine if the bone that broke was sticking out of the skin. It’s not all that simple when a bone breaks and so sometimes the side effects of a broken leg are even worst than the broken leg itself.
There’s also a good chance that the bone that grows back won’t grow back correctly. Broken bones grow back normally if they are properly aligned and adjusted to do so. If the part of the bone that’s broken is off-centered, it may grow back at an angle. Depending on how it heals, we’re looking at the possibility of constant pain, strain, or discomfort when moving.
You also have to account for the possibility of infection which can pretty much be the end for our poor bunny. Wild rabbits won’t have access to medicine or antibiotics like domesticated ones do.
The importance of a rabbit’s legs
The front legs of a rabbit are used mostly for stability, running, and grabbing things. A broken bone here would likely not be as severe and limiting.
In fact, front leg broken bones are less common compared to back leg ones, namely being to the front legs being smaller and shorter.
It’s very fortunate for rabbits and a great reason for their success in surviving dangers thanks to their hind legs. These back legs are powerful. They’re strong and fast. With these legs, they have the ability to run, jump, dig, and even fight.
Not being able to use these legs will make it incredibly difficult to evade danger and continue living normally.
The Skeletal bones of rabbits
It probably goes without question that you can guess how strong rabbit bones are.
Not very strong at all.
Rabbits are very light and their skeleton makes up only 7-8% of their entire body’s weight. When you actually compare that to a person like me or you, our bones make up about 15% of our body weight.
Wild vs domesticated rabbits
Even though wild and domestic rabbits are fundamentally the same, it’s their situation that’s different.
Wild rabbits live without intervention from humans. They go from birth to old age with keen instincts about their environment. They have to fight for survival and for food. They are always cautious.
Injuries to wild rabbits could be fatal.
If a wild rabbit is lucky enough not to fall prey to a predator, its average lifespan could be anywhere from 4-6 years.
Domesticated rabbits are cared for by humans. These rabbits, while still cautious at times, have grown dependent on humans.
Funny enough, domesticated rabbits have access to medicine and expert treatment.
Ultimately a domesticated rabbit’s lifespan could run up to 9 years at times.
What should you do if you see an injured rabbit?
In the following, I want to discuss the standard procedures of what you need to do if you see a rabbit that’s injured in the wild.
Identifying the situation
The first thing you must do is assess the situation. Know that there might be certain dangers in the area that may harm even you if you were to attempt to help. Make sure there’s no visible danger at or around the site where the rabbit is laying.
When should you help
The rabbit could be in danger and if this danger can transfer over to you, then it might not be a good idea to approach it.
Imagine if there was a snake somewhere lurking in the grass. Maybe it has a hold on the rabbit and maybe it’s hard to see because it’s camouflaged. Either way, I would tread carefully.
Keep your distance and monitor the situation. If you feel it’s unsafe to attempt to help the poor rabbit, it may be up to fate to take over.
You always have to assume that this rabbit might be carrying a disease that can be transmitted over to you. While rabbits don’t usually bite humans, it’s still very possible, especially if it’s hurt and scared.
If you’ve found no reason to be concerned and you’ve decided that you must help the rabbit. Make sure you put on proper protection. A thick towel, a box, a jacket; anything that can come in between you and the hurt rabbit.
Now let’s assume you have on the thickest jacket or you have a big enough box to scoop the rabbit into, you have to be careful and be as gentle as possible. These are wild rabbits and they aren’t used to human interaction. They’ve known all their lives that they are prey and they will almost certainly treat you as a predator.
Go get help
If you’ve decided that this isn’t something you can do or you don’t want to risk getting into harm’s way, I would recommend calling for help. Organizations like PETA, the Humane Society, or ASPCA are just a few of the companies that specialize in protecting and saving animal lives.
If the situation is dire and may even affect other human lives such as the rabbit being in the middle of the road, it may be acceptable to call 911. According to the Animal Welfare Institute, 911 calls are warranted if it pertains to serious injury or even death to animals.
How to care for an injured rabbit
Now, you’re going to have to be very careful. While in your care, your wild rabbit is going to be extremely stressed and scared.
It’s customary to see that if this were a domesticated pet, it would likely go see a veterinarian. It would go through extensive surgery to repair and align the bone.
In many cases, veterinarians may examine the leg for any issues that might alarm them. They’ll try to fight any infection that they see may fit the result. You might even hear the vet recommend allowing the rabbit’s leg to simply heal on its own.
During the healing process, the rabbit should be limited in movement.
Do wild rabbits make good pets?
It’s unfortunate, but wild rabbits cannot be domesticated. The instinct, nature, it’s all built into wild rabbits from birth to where they are now.
History has taught us that domesticated rabbits took generations to evolve into. Wild rabbits don’t do well in captivity. Their natural survival instincts prevent them from being pets and they could also spread disease.
Also, a wild rabbit’s diet may be drastically different from domesticated ones.
The bottom line
Wild rabbits have their own class of behaviors and characteristics. In order to survive, they need to be in good health.
Facing the environment is difficult for survival and being that rabbits are usually at the bottom of the food chain, a broken leg makes life very difficult.
You can help a wild rabbit with a broken leg but you have to be sure you keep yourself safe in the process. Taking care of a wild rabbit takes a lot of work and you must be very careful.
These rabbits are fragile.
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