54°F
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.
THE LATEST
Revenue added to pool fund

Despite a dissenting vote from the mayor, Boulder City’s fund for a new pool is $3.1 million richer because of extra revenue received during the 2021 fiscal year.

Train museum expansion on track

The expansion of the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Boulder City is moving forward and funds to finish its design phase could be released in February.

Parcels earmarked for development

The city’s land management process is two properties larger after council approved adding them at its meeting Tuesday.

Business Beat: Family nudges jeweler into career

When he was a young boy growing up in Cleveland, Paul Kramar never imagined that his desire to play with his uncle’s “big boy toys” would lead to a career as a master jeweler. But that’s exactly what it did.

Plan for pandemic-caused grocery shortages

Maybe your grocery store shelves are fully stocked and you have access to fresh fruit and produce in your area, but if you live in or around Boulder City, the stark reality is that grocery shoppers in the area are feeling the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Gone are the vast quantities of brand choices on the shelves, and access to fresh produce and fruit is severely limited.

Forecast projects 30-plus-foot drop in 2 years at Lake Mead

Lake Mead’s water level is projected to drop more than 30 feet in the next two years, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority is urging people to continue conserving water.

Transportation issues forces changes to school hours

Several schools in Boulder City will be affected by the district’s recent decision to change the start and end times at some campuses in order to improve transportation.

Process to report mask mandate violations established

Nevada’s mask mandate is still in effect, and the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration office has created a way for people to report alleged violations.

District implements 5-day pause

The Clark County School District is implementing a five-day pause for all classes and school activities due to extreme staffing issues because of the high number of positive COVID-19 cases.