ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The National Park Service is asking the public not to get close to wildlife, especially wild rabbits. Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHDV2) has recently been detected in wild cottontail rabbits and jackrabbits in the southwest including in Bernalillo County.
A highly contagious and lethal viral disease among both wild and domestic rabbits, RHDV2 doesn’t infect humans however, other causes of sickness in rabbits can. Multiple sick or dead rabbits can indicate tularemia or plague which can cause serious illness in people.
Individuals with rabbits should be extremely cautious to avoid the accidental exposure of rabbits to this disease. The National Park Service warns owners that domestic rabbits should not be housed outdoors in areas where they may contact wild rabbits.
This virus is not related to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in humans. While there is little data available to predict the impact of RHDV2 in North American rabbit populations, early information suggests mortality may be high and could seriously impact the populations of rabbits and their predators.
RHDV2 can be transmitted to other rabbits through body fluids and feces from an infected rabbit or in a contaminated environment. The National Park Service warns that the virus is known to be hardy and can survive on clothing, plant material as well as other items that can be accidentally moved from an infected area.
After visiting other wild areas, you are encouraged to wash clothing and to disinfect your footwear. The National Park Service encourages the public to be attentive and to do the following to protect themselves and their pets:
If you see a sick or dead rabbit in Petroglyph National Monument:
- Do not touch the animal
- Contact Environmental Protection Specialist Chanteil Walter via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 505-377-3375
- Provide the following information:
- Date observed
- Species if known (cottontail, jackrabbit, other)
- Specific location
- Keep dogs on a leash (6 feet or less)
- Do not allow your dogs to interact with sick or dead rabbits or other wildlife