As we have entered into hunting season, we not only need to think about the potential of filling our freezer or bagging a trophy whitetail buck, but we also have another role to play. We spend countless hours, days, and weeks outdoors as hunters.
We are the eyes on our wildlife when we purchase a hunting license; we take on the role of conservationists and stewards. Therefore, when we see an animal acting differently or something that seems strange, it is essential to know what our wildlife is at risk of contracting.
Something new to Pennsylvania is rabbit hemorrhagic disease; according to Cornell Universities Wildlife Health Lab, it is highly contagious and untreatable in rabbits.
This disease appears to have originated in domestic European rabbits and spread to China through transportation from Germany. In addition, it has been found in wild and domestic rabbits in North America and detected in a facility in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.
There is a current ban on importing rabbit parts, including meat, pelts, hides, and carcasses. This virus is a strain as what is known as the RHDV virus that affects Lagomorphs (rabbits, hares, pikas) while it is highly contagious according to Cornell's health lab it does not infect humans, livestock or pets.
Some signs to look for are bleeding from eyes, nose, or mouth yellow mucus or blood in feces. There are also subacute symptoms of a less fatal strain that would be easier to see in domestic rabbits these includes seizures, lethargy, depression, loss of appetite. The virus can also be spread through insects and scavengers.
You can find more information at the link above and also at Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease | Cornell Wildlife Health Lab