The B.C. forest ministry says investigation into the source of rabbit hemorrhagic disease, that has led to numerous rabbit deaths, is not feasible and results would likely be inconclusive. (News Bulletin file)

Province says probe ‘not feasible’ into deadly virus killing rabbits in B.C.

Nanaimo Animal Control Services estimates 450-500 dead rabbits have been recovered

The provincial government says it won’t be investigating the source of a deadly virus that has led to numerous rabbit deaths in the Nanaimo area.

After a number of dead rabbits were reported in the Rotary Bowl stadium area in late-February, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development issued a statement warning of the “extremely infectious and lethal” rabbit hemorrhagic virus. Six rabbits from Nanaimo were tested and all were positive, it said.

Helen Schwantje, a wildlife veterinarian with the ministry, told the News Bulletin the virus is native to domestic rabbits of European origin and pet rabbits were at risk.

In an e-mailed statement, the ministry said “an investigation is not feasible and results would very likely be inconclusive, as previously experienced through investigations where outbreaks have occurred in other parts of the country.”

The ministry said tests were conducted on 17 rabbits from a number of areas, including Nanaimo and Comox, with 12 being feral (wild, but descended from domestic rabbits) and five domestic (pets). Eleven of the feral rabbits tested positive, while all five domestic rabbits were negative.

Feral rabbits submitted from regions where the disease has been confirmed are no longer being tested, said the ministry. A vaccine will be available for rabbit owners in the coming weeks, it said.

Carley Colclough, Nanaimo Animal Control Services’ pound coordinator, estimated that animal control services has recovered between 450 to 500 dead rabbits since late February, but it has been slowing down.

“We’re getting a lot of calls about one or two rabbits at a time instead of 15 to 20 at a time, and I think that’s because it’s probably moved through the larger populations and now we’re finding just the odd one in someone’s yard or on the sidewalk or something like that, but we’re not getting nearly as many calls from Beban Park or Westwood Road where there had been previously big populations,” said Colclough.

Colclough said the highest concentration of dead rabbits was in the Beban Park area with approximately 20 to 30 a day during the second week of March. She also expects that many infected rabbits crawled into their burrows and died as well, although there is no way to know for certain.

Leon Davis, branch manager for Nanaimo’s B.C. SPCA, said a moratorium on accepting bunnies remains in place.

“I think animal control is still picking up rabbits daily and we’re still finding them sporadically and until we get more information from the ministry to how long it can persist in the environment, we’re not transferring out any animals at all so our vehicles don’t spread anything … we’re just trying to do our best to limit any impact we have,” said Davis.

Anyone who sees dead rabbits is asked to contact animal control services at 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

Avoid giving dogs ice cubes, says Greater Victoria vet

Tips for keeping dogs cool and safe this summer

GVPL staggers reopening of three more branches in Oak Bay, Saanich and Victoria

More Greater Victoria Library branches to reopen in August

Hungry Hearts Gala goes virtual with new mac and cheese competition

Results will be announced on Facebook live stream event

Gaps in the system: Youth cope with homelessness in Greater Victoria

Four-part series will look at youth homelessness in the region

Rolling the dice on the patina of old copper

At the Galleries: Summer days continue

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Missing teen visiting Courtenay found safe

She had last been seen going for a walk on Aug. 6

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Fitness non-profit challenges citizens to invent a game to be physically active

The campaign was launched after a study showed only 4.8 per cent of children and youths in Canada met required standards of the 24-hour movement guidelines

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

Vancouver Island team takes on wacky challenges of world’s largest scavenger hunt

Greatest International Scavenger Hunt taking place Aug. 1-8

Most Read