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Science

Virus Killing Off Rabbits Statewide

Rabbit laying on the grass
Lawn Boy
/
Flickr via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A virus is killing off a large number of rabbits in the state. Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokeswoman Sara DiRenzo said the deadly virus known as the Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHDV2) was first found in France back in 2010, and has made its way to the U.S. It was first identified in this country in 2019, and is slowly spreading. The first case in Albany County was found in December last year.

It is a disease that is highly contagious and lethal affecting rabbits, both domesticated and wild. So far there have been 83 cases statewide. DiRienzo said that this is a concern and they are monitoring it closely. She added that the virus is often very swift and is a sudden killer, noting that the rabbits may die without showing any symptoms at all.

"They should be rabbits that don't have an obvious cause of death. What it looks like is that you may come upon a rabbit that looks like it just laid down… and died. There is no other cause of death as if it was preyed on by coyotes or something," DiRienzo explained.

DiRienzo added that the virus is spread through nose-to-nose contact, feces, and dead rabbit carcasses. The disease only impacts animals that are in the rabbit family. It does not spread to humans, nor any other domesticated animals such as cats and dogs.

"What we're asking precaution-wise, is for the public to report any dead rabbits that they come across or find. It's really important to not touch the rabbit or pick them up themselves and call Game and Fish. We'll help pick up those rabbits for testing," said DiRienzo.

The public should report any dead rabbits without obvious signs of death to the nearest Game and Fish regional office so they are able to monitor the disease.

This story is supported by a grant through Wyoming EPSCoR and the National Science Foundation.

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