Grand Canyon officials warn visitors to beware of wild rabbit carcasses

Stock photo by George Harrison, USFWS on Pixnio, St. George News

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. — The National Park Service is asking visitors at Grand Canyon National Park to take caution and not to approach wildlife, especially wild rabbits. Rabbit hemorrhagic disease was recently detected in a dead jackrabbit found within the park, making it the first detected case in the park.

According to a press release from the park service, the disease, RHDV2, is a highly contagious and lethal viral infection among domestic and wild rabbits. The virus does not infect humans, but other causes of illness and mortality of rabbits can. The public is instructed to remain cautious and to follow the instructions below to protect themselves, pets and rabbits while in the park.

If you see sick or dead rabbits in Grand Canyon National Park:

  • Do not touch or handle the animal.
  • Contact the Wildlife Program office by calling 928-638-7752 as soon as possible.
  • Provide the following information: date observed, species if known (cottontail, jackrabbit, other), specific location, and a photo is helpful.

Protect your pets:

  • Keep dogs on a leash of 6 feet or less.
  • Do not allow dogs or other pets to interact with sick or dead rabbits or other wildlife.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center, RHDV2 is considered a foreign animal disease, meaning the disease is not typically found in the United States and is a threat to domestic and wild animal health. This virus is not related to the coronavirus causing COVID-19 in humans.

This virus can be transmitted among rabbits through contact with an infected rabbit, with body fluids or feces from an infected rabbit or with a contaminated environment. The virus can survive on clothing, plant material or other items that may be accidentally moved from an infected area. Before visiting other wild areas, wash clothing and disinfect footwear.

Rabbit owners should exercise extreme caution to avoid accidental exposure of rabbits to this disease. Domestic rabbits should not be housed outdoors in areas where contact with wild rabbits is possible. Contact your veterinarian for more information about this disease in domestic rabbits.

To report disease in wildlife throughout the state of Arizona, call the Arizona Game and Fish Department at 623-236-7201. More information about RHDV2 is available online.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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