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TPWD Asks Public to Keep an Eye Out for Dead Rabbits After Hemorrhagic Disease Confirmed

Since April, no new cases have been confirmed, but TPWD asks the public to report any dead rabbits found this fall and winter. Image courtesy of TPWD.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) asks the public — especially hunters — to keep an eye out for dead wild rabbits after lab results from early 2020 confirmed the presence of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV) in several Texas species.

No new cases have been confirmed since April but TPWD asks the public to report any dead rabbits found this fall and winter to their local game warden.

The disease is not known to affect humans, livestock or pets other than rabbits. However, pets, such as hunting dogs, should not be allowed to consume dead animal carcasses.

To date, counties with known mortality events include Brewster, Cottle, Culberson, El Paso, Gaines, Hale, Hockley, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Lubbock, Pecos, Potter, Presidio, Randall and Ward counties. Reports of dead rabbits should be made to a local biologist in the county in which they were found.

RHDV is a highly contagious viral disease that can affect both domestic and wild rabbit species. RHDV has been known to exist in all biological tissues and fluids within rabbits. In addition, RHDV has been known to survive on the landscape for more than 120 days and can withstand freezing temperatures. This disease is nearly always fatal and primarily affects adult rabbits.

The disease can spread between rabbits through direct contact with other infected rabbits or carcasses, contact with their meat or fur, contaminated food or water, or other contaminated materials. These factors make disease control efforts extremely challenging.

Often the only clinical sign is sudden death. In less acute cases, clinical signs in rabbits have included the following: dullness/apathy, not eating, bleeding from the nose and eyes, or watery, congested eyes. Some may also exhibit neurological signs such as incoordination, excitement or seizure-like episodes.

TPWD advises all rabbit hunters to voluntarily clean rabbits in the harvest location and discard non-consumed carcass parts in the same area. Hunters can also minimize the spread of this disease by reducing the movement of biological materials and carcasses across Texas.

Hunters are advised to take standard protective measures such as wearing gloves and thoroughly washing their hands after field-dressing rabbits.

TPWD also requests that hunters thoroughly clean coolers containing rabbits with a 10% bleach solution after use.

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