Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has received test results confirming that Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) was diagnosed in a wild black-tailed jackrabbit in Lubbock County and a wild cottontail rabbit in Hudspeth County. This marks the first confirmed cases of RHD in wild rabbits in Texas and follows the discovery of the disease in domestic rabbits in Hockley County, which was announced in a recent Texas Animal Health Commission news release.
Since March 23, detections of the disease in both wild and domestic rabbits have occurred in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Mexico. There have been reports of mortality events in both wild cottontails (genus Sylvilagus) and jackrabbits (genus Lepus) in El Paso, Hudspeth, Brewster, Terrell, Lubbock and Pecos Counties in Texas.
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is a highly contagious viral disease that can affect both domestic and wild rabbit species. This disease is nearly always fatal and primarily affects adult rabbits. The viral agent, Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV), is a calicivirus with two strains, RHDV-1 and RHDV-2, being reported in North America in recent years. RHDV-2 is known to affect wild rabbits and was determined to be the agent in the Lubbock and Hockley County cases. RHD is a Foreign Animal Disease (FAD), but has been detected in Canada, Washington and Ohio.
RHDV appears only to affect rabbit species (lagomorphs). It is not known to affect humans, livestock or pets other than rabbits. However, pets should not be allowed to consume dead animal carcasses.
“The loss of this prey species can affect big game populations as well as other populations like rodents due to a shift in what predators will go after,” said John Silovsky, TPWD Wildlife Division deputy director. “That’s especially true in fragile areas like the Trans Pecos.”
Often the only clinical sign is sudden