New Mexico Agency: Hemorrhagic Disease Killing Rabbits

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Cause for Rabbit Mortality

Johnathan Odell and Ann Justice-Allen from the Arizona Game and Fish Department will be on the April 12 edition of the radio show to discuss this with Don McDowell.

From the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish:

SANTA FE, NM –  The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (Department) and the New Mexico Livestock Board report that Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus type 2 (RHDV-2) is the cause for recent rabbit deaths in both wild jackrabbit and cottontail populations as well as in domestic rabbit production facilities. RHDV-2 is highly contagious among rabbits; however, it is not known to be transmissible to humans or pets. RHDV-2 is from a different viral family from the corona virus and is not related to COVID-19.

The Department collected carcasses for testing after reports of dead wild rabbits in early March. Mortalities in domestic rabbits also resulted in testing during this time. Tests for both domestic rabbits and wild jackrabbits and cottontails were positive for RHDV- 2. Currently, mortalities in wild populations have only been reported in southern and eastern New Mexico. RHDV-2 is expected to spread and is transmitted among rabbits through direct contact, excrement, shared food sources and contaminated burrows.

Guidelines for Wild Jackrabbits and Cottontails:

  • Report large numbers of dead wild rabbits to your local Conservation Officer or the Department Information Center at (888) 248-6866.
  • Do not handle found rabbit or rodent carcasses. Carcasses may harbor pathogens and may be buried and moved with a shovel.
  • Do not allow pets to feed on found carcasses. Though RHDV-2 is not a risk to pets, a number of other pathogens and parasites from carcasses can affect pets.
  • Hunters should handle all harvested rabbits with caution. Wear gloves when field dressing and wash hands well afterward.
  • Meat from healthy rabbits harvested by hunters is safe to consume when cooked thoroughly.

Guidelines for Domestic Rabbits:

  • Keep domestic rabbits isolated from wild rabbits.
  • Do not release domestic rabbits from pen facilities to live in colonies.
  • Consult your veterinarian if you experience sudden death among your rabbits.
  • Work with your veterinarian to decontaminate your rabbitry after a mortality event.

Helpful Links on RHDV-2:


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Don McDowell, Arizona native, is an avid outdoorsman and has been an active bass pro fisherman for over 16 years and in the past 15 years has developed his own radio show promoting bass fishing and conservation efforts for bass fishing that escalated to nominations with several bass groups and organizations. In the past 12 years, Don has pursued his conservation agenda through AZBFN-TBF as Conservation Director and with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, in the spring of 2014 redesigned his website to include those efforts highlighted below and has increased the AZGFD exposure, public education of the AZGFD and Commission issues on his radio show and website soliciting local and national support for Arizona. 2014 has seen the founding of SRT Outdoors, Inc., 501 C3 organization, “Not for Profit, for Conservation” which is concentrating on grants for mitigating the effects of Gizzard Shad on Roosevelt lake thorough habitat enhancement, Florida Strain Bass stocking, lakes bottom mapping, etc. and feral hog research.

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