Rabbit Hunters Be Aware!
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2) is a highly contagious virus affecting rabbits and snowshoe hare. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department does not think this virus is present in Vermont at this time, but it is thought to be spreading eastward from the western United States. RHDV2 does not affect other wildlife, humans or pets, except rabbits. RHDV2 can spread through direct contact with infected rabbits or indirectly through contact with contaminated surfaces.
Sudden mortality in healthy rabbits occurs with this virus, and infected rabbits may be lethargic, reluctant to move, or have blood coming out of the nostrils or mouth.
When hunting, do not harvest rabbits that appear sick as they should not be taken home. If you find a wild dead rabbit and it’s not obvious what killed it, contact Vermont Fish & Wildlife. You should not consume the animal or process the pelt for use. RHDV2 can persist in frozen meat for an unknown period of time.
When field-dressing rabbits, wear disposable gloves, securely bag entrails and other remains, and dispose of them in the trash. Do not discard remains where other animals may have access to them.
Similar to all wild game preparation, you should wear disposable gloves and refrain from eating, drinking and smoking while handling and cleaning game. Meat should be cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165 degrees and all surfaces in contact with meat should be cleaned and disinfected.
For current information on RHDV2, visit the USDA APHIS webpage: www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/sa-epidemiology-animalhealth-ceah/ri.