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Rabbits Return, But So Does Rabbit Virus

In 2021 our neighborhood experienced an outbreak of a virus that killed many of our desert cottontail rabbits. The rabbit population remained low for a while, but this year there are many cottontails and black-tailed jackrabbits hopping about once more.

Unfortunately, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has recently detected Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease in our area, so the disease is not completely gone.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus serotype 2 (RHDV2) spreads quickly and is highly lethal, but does not affect humans or other animals. It can cause fever, bleeding near nose and mouth, or sudden fatality with no apparent symptoms. The virus can remain viable for months and can spread via scavengers or feces, so it is recommended to bury remains at least three feet deep in a plastic bag. Incidents can be reported online to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to help track the disease. For further details, see the California Quick Facts sheet.

We have received the following message from the department:

“Due to limited resources we cannot test more cottontails right now but are interested in testing Black-tailed jackrabbits to see if other species are affected by the virus in the area….Please let us know if any of the rabbits you have found are fresh and we can work on arranging collection. We are interested in collecting carcasses from your area if they are in suitable condition (less than 2-3 days old and not scavenged). If it seems to be reasonably fresh, and it is feasible to collect, double bag, and freeze the carcass in a non-food freezer or place in a cooler with ice, let us know.  Please make sure to not touch the carcass with your bare hands and use a 10% bleach solution on any tools/footwear/etc that touched the carcass as well as the outsides of both bags.”

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