Experts urging caution as rabbits die by the hundreds in B.C. city

Province of B.C. confirms more positive tests for rabbit haemorrhagic disease

With more confirmed cases of a lethal rabbit virus in the Nanaimo area, experts are advising bunny owners to continue being cautious.

In late February, Nanaimo Animal Control Services recovered a larger-than-usual number of dead rabbits in the Rotary Bowl and Vancouver Island University area. On March 2, the B.C. government issued a release warning of the “rabbit haemorrhagic disease, caused by a calicivirus.”

The disease affects rabbits only, not other animals, and the occurrence in Nanaimo is the first in the province and only the third-ever diagnosis in Canada.

Carley Colclough, Nanaimo Animal Control Services’ pound coordinator, said there has been a marked increase in dead rabbits, with reports around the Westwood Road area, Maffeo Sutton Park and the hospital. Approximately 300 dead rabbits have been picked up by animal control, Colclough said.

READ MORE: Dead rabbits found at Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds

READ MORE: Rabbit owners in the region warned about deadly virus

READ MORE: A dozen dead rabbits discovered at Rotary Bowl

In all, six rabbits from the Nanaimo area were submitted by the province for testing and all died due to the virus, said Helen Schwantje, wildlife veterinarian with the ministry of forests. She said the virus is native to domestic rabbits of European origin and pet rabbits are at risk.

“The majority of pet rabbits are domestic rabbits of European extraction and they are definitely very sensitive to it so people with pet rabbits need to practise really, really good biosecurity, proper hygiene,” said Schwantje. “The virus is transmitted by close contact either through feces, through some kind of body excretion, saliva, it can exist in the environment for quite some time.

“So a dead rabbit decomposing on the soil can keep that virus in the environment for some period of time, so that’s why good hygiene is important. If people are walking … get some rabbit poop on their feet and then go home and handle their own rabbit, that’s a potential risk. I would be very careful if I had a domestic rabbit.”

It is not recommended people release domestic rabbits into the wild, Schwantje said.

Schwantje said there are veterinarians looking to import a vaccine, but she estimates it will take a few weeks to arrive and it is not foolproof.

Dead rabbits have been found in the Comox Valley area and while the disease is a possibility, Schwantje said none of those rabbits have been tested yet.

“It’s really disturbing that, if this is haemorrhagic disease virus, that it’s jumped from one community to another,” said Schwantje. “That shouldn’t really be happening. That is very concerning to me.”

Colclough recommends anyone finding dead rabbits within city limits call Nanaimo Animal Control Services.

Leon Davis, Nanaimo and District SPCA branch manager, said a moratorium on submission of rabbits at the Nanaimo facility is still in effect.

Symptoms are said to include loss of appetite and spasms.

The animal control services number is 250-616-0233.



reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes the Kootenays

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout parts of B.C. and Alberta

Castlegar and Trail Chevron offering free gas for front line workers

Health care, fire, police, paramedics included in offer

Grand Forks distillery shifts to make sanitizer

How a Grand Forks distillery is stepping up during the COVID-19 pandemic

Trail arts council hopeful for show-filled season come fall

Cancelled events include Sunday Cinema, Silver City Days, and family shows

Man launches West Kootenay shuttle service for those in need

Business owner Mike Sherwood said he’s been getting ten call requests a day from people

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Premier urges everyone to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice

B.C.’s first community COVID-19 death was dentist ‘dedicated’ to health: lawyer

Vincent was 64 when he died on March 22 after attending the Pacific Dental Conference

Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Correctional Service of Canada did not release any details on the identities of the inmates

COVID-19 case confirmed at restaurant in Cache Creek: Interior Health

Customers who visited the site from March 25 to 27 are asked to self-isolate

BC SPCA launches matching campaign to help vulnerable animals after big donations

Two BC SPCA donors have offered up to $65,000 in matching donations

Quarantined B.C. mom say pandemic has put special-needs families in ‘crisis mode’

Surrey’s Christine Williams shares family’s challenges, strengths

Anti-tax group calls for MPs, senators to donate scheduled pay raises to charity

Bill C-30, adopted 15 years ago, mandates the salary and allowance increases each calendar year

Most Read