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

Castlegar FedEx facility scheduled for fall opening

FedEx ground distribution centre coming to Castlegar.

Castlegar autism workshop helps parents cope with wait times

Kootenay Family Place holding workshop Feb. 1

Talin Verigin elected SD 20 trustee

Verigin will represent rural Castlegar RDCK Areas I and J.

West Kootenay snowpack nearing record levels

High snowpack can mean a greater risk of flooding in spring, say forecasters

Rossland Skating Club invites the community to Year End Show

Rossland Skating Club competed in the East Kootenay Invitational Skating Competition last week

VIDEO: Feds look to help 126 Canadians quarantined in China for coronavirus

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of the new virus, with more than 100 deaths

Calgary man dies in snowmobiling incident near Revelstoke

Boulder Mountain is a popular snowmobiling area west of the city

‘I am so sorry’: Stolen Baby Bear statue reunited with Mama, Papa Bear in B.C. town

Culprit left it near the Henry Road roundabout in Chemainus with a note attached

‘Critically low’ caribou population prompts wolf cull in the Chilcotin

Itcha-Ilgachuz herd numbers down to 385, from 2,800 in 2003

Off-duty B.C. Mountie takes down would-be ice cream thief

Suspect attempted to steal Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen location on Sunday

RCMP to review fatal B.C. train derailment investigation after evidence points to ‘cover up’

The derailment, which occurred on Feb. 4, 2019, killed three men from Calgary

Nanaimo man hit with pole in dispute over off-leash dog

RCMP say no charges recommended at this time

Family hopes Britain can get pregnant B.C. woman out of China’s coronavirus epicentre

Lauren Williams, who is about 35 weeks pregnant, has been stuck in Wuhan

Most Read