Information About Rabbit Hemorrhagic Fever

Lindsay Wildlife Experience is asking the public to report dead rabbits to state wildlife officials and take extra safety measures to protect their pet rabbits after a deadly virus that affects wild rabbits and hares was recently detected in Alameda County this month.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed on June 25 that a black-tailed jackrabbit found in Pleasanton was infected with the RHDV2 virus, which causes hemorrhagic fever in rabbits and hares. This is the first confirmed case of the disease in Northern California. It has previously been detected in wild rabbits and hares in Southern California. 

The Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking the public to report dead rabbits and hares using their online mortality reporting form. Deceased rabbits and hares should not be brought to the wildlife hospital, and pet rabbits should be vaccinated or otherwise protected from exposure to wild rabbits following guidelines developed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital is continuing to accept sick, injured and orphaned wild rabbits and hares but strict quarantine protocols are in place. No infected animals have been discovered at the hospital to date.

First detected in wild rabbit populations in New Mexico in April 2020, the RHDV2 virus is a calcivirus that is deadly to wild, domestic and feral European and North American rabbits and hares. It is spread between rabbits through contact with other infected rabbits or their carcasses, their meat or fur, contaminated food and water, and anything else that has been in contact with a sick rabbit or hare. The disease causes swelling, internal bleeding and liver damage and the virus can persist in the environment for up to 3  months. It is not known to affect humans, pets or other animals but is extremely contagious among lagomorphs, which include rabbits, hares and pikas. 

Lindsay Wildlife has implemented safety protocols including: not transferring rabbits and hares in from or out to other rehabilitation centers; quarantining rabbits from all other lagomorphs for 10 days and using PPE when handling lagomorphs. 

“Our goal at the Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital is to help every species and give the individual its very best chance at survival while always looking at the bigger picture,” said Peter Flowers, Wildlife Hospital & Rehabilitation Manager. “With that in mind this kind of infectious disease has the potential to spread rapidly. We must do everything we can to prevent this from happening by empowering the public to help us by reporting deceased rabbits, preventing the spread and protecting pet rabbits.”

For more information about rabbit hemorrhagic fever, please read this FAQ from The California Department of Fish and Wildlife.