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Biologists ask the community to report dead rabbits

Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 4:04 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) asks hunters to report any rabbit mortality events, especially in areas of the Panhandle and Trans Pecos regions.

TPWD received test results confirming that Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV) was found in...
TPWD received test results confirming that Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV) was found in several species of wild rabbits across the state. Since April of this year, TPWD along with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) have not confirmed any new cases in wild rabbit populations in Texas.(Arkansas Game and Fish Commission)

In early 2020, TPWD received test results confirming that Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV) was found in several species of wild rabbits across the state. Since April of this year, TPWD along with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) have not confirmed any new cases in wild rabbit populations in Texas. Therefore, TPWD seeks input from the public, especially hunters, asking that they report any dead rabbits found this fall or winter, similar to what they did last year.

RHDV is a highly contagious and nearly fatal disease that affects domestic and wild rabbit species and has been identified in multiple states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, and Texas. The RHVD virus is resistant to extreme temperatures and can spread through direct contact or exposure to an infected rabbit’s excretions or blood. The virus can survive and spread from carcasses, food, water, and other contaminated materials. People can spread the virus indirectly by carrying it on their clothing and shoes.

These factors make disease control efforts extremely challenging.

To date, the counties with known mortality events include Brewster, Cottle, Culberson, El Paso, Gaines, Hale, Hockley, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Lubbock, Pecos, Potter, Presidio, Randall, and Ward.

Authorities ask that reports of any dead rabbits be made to local biologists in the county where they are found.

RHDV appears to affect the rabbit species and it is not known to affect humans, livestock, or pets other than rabbits. Nonetheless, pets such as hunting dogs shouldn’t be allowed to consume dead animal carcasses. Many times, the only signs of the disease are sudden death and blood-stained noses caused by internal bleeding. Infected rabbits may develop a fever, be hesitant to eat, or show respiratory or nervous signs.

USDA officials advise rabbit owners to prevent their pets from coming in contact with wild rabbits or gaining entry to the facility or home. They also advise people to practice good biosecurity, always washing hands with warm soapy water before entering the rabbit area, handling pet rabbits with protective gear (including overalls, shoe covers, hair covering, and gloves), removing protective clothing after leaving the rabbit area. They also advise rabbit handlers to sanitize all equipment including cages and coolers moved around the area and to establish a working relationship with a veterinarian to review best practices and to identify possible gaps.

For more information, visit the USDA website or the RHD page on the TPWD website.

To learn more about domestic rabbit RHDV2 cases, visit the TAHC website.

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