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Precautions for Hunters Dressing Deer

Safely Field Dress Your Harvest

Wildlife diseases are increasingly common in Vermont. These diseases can spread to humans—but much risk is preventable with some simple steps. To help control the spread of wildlife diseases, hunters and trappers should be especially careful to protect themselves when processing game. You can protect yourself from exposure to several diseases by following these steps:

  • Do not shoot, handle, or consume any animal that is acting abnormally or appears sick.
  • When field-dressing game, wear disposable gloves, start with a clean knife, and minimize the use of a bone saw to cut through the brain or spinal cord (backbone).
  • If you do not have gloves, wash hands and arms thoroughly with soap and water after field dressing.
  • Minimize contact with brain or spinal cord tissues, eyes, spleen, or lymph nodes while field dressing.
  • Avoid consuming brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, pancreas, and lymph nodes of harvested animals. Normal field dressing, coupled with boning out a carcass, will remove most, if not all, of these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue will remove remaining lymph nodes.
  • Refrain from eating, drinking, and smoking while handling and field dressing game.
  • Always wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing and processing game meat.
  • Disinfect knives, saws and cutting table surfaces by soaking in a solution of 50 percent unscented household bleach and 50 percent water for an hour. Thoroughly rinse all utensils in water to remove the bleach. Afterward, allow them to air dry.
  • Wear disposable gloves when processing and packaging the meat.

Keep an Eye out for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RDHV2)

What is RDHV2?

A virus that causes lethargy, bleeding at the nose and mouth, and sudden death in otherwise healthy rabbits. It is not a threat to people or other domestic animals.

Why should I be concerned?

RDHV2 can affect domestic and wild rabbits, and snowshoe hares. It can cause dramatic die-offs in wild rabbit populations, especially when first introduced.

Is it in Vermont?

RDHV2 has not been found in the Green Mountain State yet but was reported in a rabbit near Albany NY in 2022.

How can rabbit hunters help?

If you find a dead rabbit without a clear cause of death, or with evidence of bleeding at the nose or mouth, reach out to wildlife professionals! And take care while field dressing or cooking rabbits to make sure not to potentially spread RDHV2 or any other disease.

Curious for more?

For up-to-date information on RDHV2 and other wildlife diseases, visit our website ( or the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service webpage (

A rabbit in the wild during winter.