Wyomingites: Report dead rabbits for virus monitoring

Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) has asked Wyomingites to keep a lookout and report dead rabbits in their yards, rural property, and other outdoor areas.

A typically fatal disease for rabbits and hares, Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus2 (RHDV2) has been identified in neighboring states, according to the WGFD. While not found in Wyoming yet, testing rabbits is key to monitoring the disease spread.

Samantha Allen, Game and Fish state wildlife veterinarian, explained all of Wyoming’s rabbits and hares are susceptible — that includes game and nongame species like cottontail rabbits, jackrabbits, and potentially, pygmy rabbits. Domestic rabbits are also at risk; however, other domestic pets and livestock are not at risk from the disease.

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“The first indication of RHDV2 infection in rabbits is dead animals,” WGFD explained.

“Any rabbit could become infected with the disease – so it could be a cottontail living in your yard or the one you see while hiking,” said Allen. “Please report any dead rabbits you find. Testing these carcasses is the only way to know if the disease is in Wyoming.”

WGFD has confirmed the disease is in California, Nevada, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. 

RHDV2 does not pose a threat to humans, but rabbits carry other diseases that can — like tularemia and plague, WGFD explained. “The public is advised not to touch or pick up any dead wild rabbits. Rather, note the location and call the Game and Fish Wildlife Health Lab at (307) 745-5865 or the nearest regional office. Game and Fish personnel will evaluate the situation, and make plans to collect the rabbit.”

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