Heroic rabbit wildfire rescue may have been unnecessary

Don't mess with Mother Nature.

Video of a man rescuing a rabbit spotted racing through a gap in the flames has been making its rounds on the internet, but it seems the creature may not have been in need of saving after all.

According to a report from the U.S. Forest Service, published in 2000, wildfires generally don't kill many animals - especially those that live in burrows.

As long as the holes in which the animals have taken up residence remain well-ventilated, they report suggests they're likely to make it through until the blaze subsides.

RELATED: Horrifying images of California wildfires show how rapidly destruction has spread

Horrifying images of California wildfires show how rapidly destruction has spread
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Horrifying images of California wildfires show how rapidly destruction has spread

The fires forced thousands of residents to evacuate their homes around Los Angeles and in suburbs throughout the region.

(Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Downtown Santa Paula was darkened by a power outage as strong winds pushed the Thomas Fire across thousands of acres.

(David McNew/Reuters)

The fire continues to threaten homes as it burns along the 101 freeway.

(Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

101 remains open, but authorities are advising people to avoid driving there.

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The burned remains of cars lined a country road near Santa Paula.

(David McNew/Reuters)

Embers blew from a tree shortly before it fell near burned cars in Santa Paula.

(David McNew/Reuters)

Despite the violence of these images, no fatalities from the fires had been reported as of 2pm PT on Wednesday.

(David McNew/Reuters)

The fires destroyed over 150 structures and are threatening thousands more homes as of Wednesday afternoon.

(Gene Blevins/Reuters)

Emergency crews blocked roadways in Ventura on Wednesday.

(Gene Blevins/Reuters)

Ventura was hit hard by the Thomas fire, the first and largest of the blazes. The remains of a home are seen here after it burned to the ground.

(Mike Blake/Reuters)

Entire neighborhoods in Ventura were leveled. 

(Mike Blake/Reuters)

In the early morning on Tuesday, the Creek Fire broke out in the Kagel Canyon area in the San Fernando Valley, north of Los Angeles.

(Gene Blevins/Reuters)

A local man was seen praying on Wednesday morning near the Creek Fire in Sylmar.

(Gene Blevins/Reuters)

Thousands of firefighters are working to contain the blazes.

(Mike Blake/Reuters)

But the fires showed no signs of stopping on Wednesday afternoon.

(Gene Blevins/Reuters)

Dry, gusty Santa Ana winds continue to blow across the region.

(Gene Blevins/Reuters)


As for those that live above ground, the report stated that they generally flee as flames close in on their habitats.

What's more, experts say that while the rabbit saved by the unidentified Good Samaritan near Highway 1 didn't appear to be making a run for it, there may be a reason it was sticking around.

Research conducted by E.V. Komarek suggests the rabbit may have been running into the fire to save its young.

In July 1969, Komarek was stationed near the edge of a controlled fire when he spotted a cotton rat. The creature raced by, "squeaking continuously and excitedly," until it reached the edge of the flames, his research noted.

"While I watched," he wrote. "the cotton rat 'herded' a young juvenile into the runway from the surrounding grass…The adult chased it a short distance away from the flames and returned to repeat the same process with two other young."

It's not clear from the video whether there were any baby rabbits nearby, however.

Komarek also noted in his research that rabbits native to this particular region of California are adept to dealing with wildfires and can pinpoint "a weak spot" to escape through without being burned.

"Frequently, we have seen cotton rats run across the line of fire," he wrote. "Apparently finding a weak spot in it, and return to the smoking burn without injury. However, under certain circumstances, in certain types of cover, they are occasionally singed or killed."

The NY Daily News reached out to both the National Interagency Fire Center and the World Wildlife Fund for comment, but did not hear back.

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