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

Just Posted

Revelstoke Art Gallery hosts exhibition in honour of Pat Wells

Barbara Maye Special to the Review Stone Carving and Revelstoke have a… Continue reading

Okanagan Wildfires: The latest on wildfires and evacuations

A Friday morning look at the major wildfires impact the Okanagan and Similkameen.

Wildfires in Mt. Revelstoke National Park not currently a threat to people or assets

Since the lightning storm on Tuesday there have been three fires on… Continue reading

UPDATE: Revelstoke RCMP looking for information on missing person John Cunliffe

The Revelstoke Royal Canadian Mounted Police Detachment is continuing to ask for… Continue reading

Mount Eneas fire grows to 1,374 hectares

Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen issues evac alerts for properties in Area F.

BC Wildfire update on Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

Wildfire near Vernon out as new Sugar Lake fire sparked

Vernon fire snuffed out, but now a new blaze has been discovered near Cherryville

Summerland winery saved from wildfire

Okanagan Crush Pad is thanking firefighters for saving the Summerland vineyard

What’s happening this weekend

Follow Social Squad memeber Matthew Abrey to find out what’s happeing this weekend

Fire on Kelowna’s Knox Mountain quickly knocked down

City fire crews responded to report of smoke at the top of the hill Friday afternoon.

RCMP help to save goats from wildfire

The fast-approaching wildfire, sparked Thursday, forced the evacuation of five homes

Feds say they’re willing to help with Okanagan fires

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale talks to local MP and offers help

VIDEO: Near drowning captured on popular B.C. river

Search and Rescue manager says the popular pastime of floating in the summer is inherently dangerous

Crosswalk vandalism leaves black mark for Cowichan as B.C. Games begin

Rainbow crosswalk defaced just days after being painted

Most Read