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Game and Fish continuing to monitor deadly rabbit virus

(Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Wildlife managers are asking residents to report dead rabbits as efforts to track a deadly disease continue, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. 

Per Game and Fish, surveillance efforts for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus, or RHDV2, have been ongoing since the first confirmed case within Wyoming’s borders in 2020. It is a fatal disease afflicting rabbits and hares, with 20 confirmed cases across eight counties in 2024. 

According to Jessica Jennings-Gaines, a wildlife disease specialist, all of Wyoming’s lagomorphs are potentially susceptible, including cottontail rabbits, jackrabbits, pygmy rabbits and domestic rabbits. 

Testing rabbits is key to monitoring the spread of RHDV2. One of the first indications of an infection in rabbits is dead animals, Game and Fish says. 

“Any rabbit could become infected with the disease; it could be a cottontail living in your yard or the one you see while hiking,” Jennings-Gaines said in a statement. “Please report any dead rabbits you find.”

Per Game and Fish, RHDV2 does not pose a threat to humans, domestic pets or livestock. Rabbits do carry other diseases such as tularemia and plague, and the public is advised not to handle any dead wild rabbits they find. 

“Rather, note the location and report it to Game and Fish by calling the Game and Fish Wildlife Health Lab at (307) 745-5865 or the nearest regional office,” the department says. “Reports can also be made online. Game and Fish personnel will evaluate the situation, and make plans to collect the rabbit if testing is needed.”