ANIMAL lovers are being urged to take extra care before rescuing baby bunnies which look like they have been abandoned by their mothers.

Good Samaritans thought they were doing the right thing when they took what looked like three rabbit kittens to Wildlives animal sanctuary in Thorrington.

But sanctuary boss Rosie Catford says her heart sank when she realised the youngsters were actually baby hares – also called leverets.

“Rabbits give birth in a burrow,” she said.

“Their kittens are born bald with no fur. Their eyes and ears are shut and they are completely helpless so their mum stays with them.

“But hares give birth out in a field.

“The leverets have all their fur, their eyes are open and they can run.”

The young hares sit motionless in a dip in the ground called a scrape.

Rosie said: “Their mum only comes back to them once a day at night so she doesn’t lead any predators to them.

“Sadly people think they have been abandoned and bring them to us.

“Leverets are the most difficult wildlife to hand rear because they stress so much.

“Stress is the biggest killer so just picking them up can be condemning them to death.”

A Wildlives volunteer is now looking after the baby hares at home so they don’t get stressed by the smell of other animals at the sanctuary – including foxes.

Rosie is urging people not to touch leverets unless they are bleeding or lying on their side.

“They are the cutest, most adorable things I’ve ever seen,” she said.

“But when I opened the box and saw them my stomach dropped.

“People think they are doing the right thing, but it is so heartbreaking for us.

“It is really important that people leave them alone.”