DENVER – On March 26, Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus type 2 (RHDV-2) in dead cottontail rabbits submitted from Garfield, and Saguache counties earlier in the month. CPW has had ongoing surveillance for the disease throughout the state since it was identified in April of 2020. Garfield and Saguache are new counties identified as having RHDV-2. The new discoveries mean that 15 Colorado counties have had positive tests for RHDV-2.
The positive case from Garfield County was discovered just south of the town of Silt. The cottontail was submitted to a CPW wildlife officer by a landowner whose dog had found the carcasses and brought them home over a period of a few weeks.
The Colorado counties with positive RHDV-2 cases to date are Adams, Alamosa, Custer, Denver, El Paso, Elbert, Garfield, Huerfano, La Plata, Las Animas, Larimer, Mesa, Prowers, Pueblo, and Saguache. Both cottontails and jackrabbits have been affected.
Suspect cases are reported to local wildlife officers and submitted to CPW’s Wildlife Health Laboratory for necropsy and testing. Not all suspect cases will be examined and tested, with priority placed on suspect cases in a new species, county, or season. CPW is particularly concerned for possible emergence of the disease in snowshoe hare and pika. Cottontails are about 16 inches long, weigh about two pounds, have shorter ears and live in brushy habitat. Jackrabbits have lengthy back legs and big ears, are up to two feet long, and can weigh 6 – 9 pounds and live in open country.
RHDV-2 is considered a foreign animal disease and is of high concern at the state and federal levels. Until recently, RHDV-2 was not considered a virus that would infect North American cottontails or hares; however, cases have now been reported in numerous states in