weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Fatal disease for rabbits could change desert landscape

A fatal disease with the potential to change the makeup of the local desert landscape was recently found in Boulder City’s wild rabbit population.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease does not affect humans but is fatal for wild and domestic rabbits. According to the Nevada Department of Wildlife, a dead wild cottontail rabbit found in town in June tested positive for the disease.

Animal Control Supervisor Ann Inabnitt said she and the shelter staff are aware and monitoring the situation.

“We are not seeing a bunch of dead rabbits yet,” she said.

Todd Esque of Boulder City, a researcher with the United States Geological Survey, found the dead rabbit and submitted it for testing through NDOW. He said RHDV2 can negatively affect desert conditions and wildlife.

“Rabbits and hares are very important components of our natural desert systems,” he said. “As primary consumers of vegetation, rabbits and hares influence desert vegetation by eating small succulent plants. They eat so much desert vegetation as a population that they can influence how much vegetation is on the landscape.”

Additionally, Esque said the wild rabbit and hare population affects desert predators.

“Besides influencing the desert plants, rabbits and hares are the primary food source for several important predators such as coyotes, kit foxes, gray foxes and golden eagles, among others. … If the virus were to kill a large proportion of the rabbits, there is concern that the predators will switch their prey choices and begin feeding on protected species such as the desert tortoise, or other protected species,” he said. “Alternatively, researchers speculate that predator numbers will decrease in response to lower prey availability.”

He said his research team has sent in additional samples from their work on rabbits and coyotes.

The disease is highly contagious for rabbits and can be spread through contact with infected rabbits, their meat or fur and materials having contact with those items. Additionally, insects and scavengers may spread RHDV2 via contact with infected material.

For prevention, Inabnitt said she and the staff are not allowing any equipment to be brought into the shelter from calls involving dead rabbits. The remains are also buried or cremated.

Rabbits infected with the disease may experience a loss of appetite, respiratory illness, blood around the nose or no symptoms at all before dying. Anyone who sees two or more cottontails or jack rabbits, or any pygmy rabbits and pikas, that are sick or dead, or has blood coming from their nose or mouth, is encouraged to call NDOW at 775-688-1500.

NDOW confirmed the disease was in Nevada’s wild rabbit population. Cases have also been confirmed in Arizona, California, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Schools report smooth return

Parents can finally exhale after a long summer of kids in the house as school is back in session in Boulder City. On Monday, Aug. 8, all four schools in town welcomed back students for the 2022-23 school year in an orderly fashion without any mishaps.

Council OKs plan to remove turf

Water was once again the main focus for City Council. At its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 9, an agreement with the Southern Nevada Water Association that will remove turf in Boulder City to save on water was approved 4-0 by the council.

Council gets first look at Nevada Way remodel

The Boulder City Council was introduced to a project that will remodel and rehabilitate the stretch of Nevada Way from Wyoming to Park streets during its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 9.

More human remains found at Lake Mead

More human remains have been found at Lake Mead, according to officials at the national recreation area.

Fire department targets sites to improve response times

Two locations are being targeted for a new Boulder City Fire substation that the City Council approved last month to help the department improve response time to emergencies. The proposed new fire station, labeled Station 122, is looking at sites at Quartzite Road and Nevada Way as well as near the library at 701 Adams Boulevard. The city owns land in both locations.

Ex-manager sues city; claims retaliation

Former City Manager Al Noyola filed a lawsuit against the city Friday, July 29, alleging that his civil rights were violated when he was fired Oct. 13, 2020.

School begins Monday

School is almost back in session for the quartet of schools in Boulder City.

Storms cause minor damage

Monsoon season brought damage to Boulder City as the town was hit with a collection of storms last week. Luckily, the city was able to handle the storms in an efficient manner, according to officials, who dealt with the typical gravel and rock erosion, power outages and roof leaks.

Lend A Hand awarded $101K from state

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Nevada has awarded $30 million in Community Recovery Grants to nonprofit organizations including Lend A Hand of Boulder City. The local organization was one of the 30-plus applicants that received money funded by American Rescue Act Plan dollars.

Drought drives tough talks to cut water use

Nevada and two of its neighboring Southwestern states are still working on ways to drastically cut water use from the Colorado River as a deadline set by the federal government to address the worsening conditions along the river quickly approaches.