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

Hedge fire at Vernon apartment ‘suspicious’

A hedge fire was quickly extinguished by the fire department early this morning

BX wildfire holding at 1.2 hectares

Blaze now 1.2 hectares, several other small fires burning in region

Search and Rescue home sought

Alternate approval process being used to borrow $3.5 million for Vernon society

Okanagan residents urged to FireSmart their homes

Regional District of North Okanagan available to help neighbourhoods and groups achieve FireSmart practices

Coldstream standoff defendant faces sentencing hearing

Kelly Blake Torvik’s matter moved to judicial case manager’s office to set sentencing date

Okanagan Wildfires: The latest on wildfires and evacuations

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

Special Olympics athletes take on BC Games during Global Day of Inclusion

Twenty-five athletes and nine coaches are here in Cowichan Valley during the 50th anniversary

Scammers dressed as Mounties threaten to arrest senior if she doesn’t cough up cash

Pair of fraudulent officers threaten to arrest 90-year-old woman

Fundraiser launched to help mom of French jogger detained after accidentally crossing U.S border

Cedella Roman, 19, was detained in America after accidentally crossing the border

Trump slams Federal Reserve rate hikes

Fed raised benchmark rate for a second time this year in June, and projects two more hikes to come

New wildfire burning in the Naramata area

Wildfire ignited at Paradise Ranch, near Naramata

West Kelowna residents remain on alert due to wildfire

Evacuation alerts are in effect for properties in the Glenrosa area

Smoky skies bulletin remains for Okanagan Valley

Still, a smoky skies bulletin was issued for the Okanagan

Police to provide update on case against alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur

McArthur worked as a landscaper, allegedly concealed the remains of seven men in planters

Most Read