The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that a rabbit found dead in Palm Springs tested positive for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease. The disease does not affect humans or other animals, but it is highly contagious and often lethal to both wild and domestic rabbits
It's the first time the disease has been ever been found in California, according to CDFW officials.
Officials say they found the black-tailed jackrabbit among 10 other dead rabbits at a property in Palm Springs.
At this time, no other California rabbit populations are known to be infected, but the disease has spread quickly in other states, officials confirmed. Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease has killed rabbits in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, and Mexico since March 2020.
Officials worry that the disease could significantly impact wild rabbit populations in California, particularly endangered species, as all rabbit, jackrabbit, hare and pika species are likely susceptible.
"Unfortunately, we may also see impacts to species that depend on rabbits for food, as rabbits are a common prey species for many predators," said CDFW Senior Wildlife Veterinarian Deana Clifford.
The CDFW is asking anyone who lives, works or recreates in wild rabbit habitat to report any sightings of sick or dead rabbits to CDFW's Wildlife Investigations Laboratory by calling (916) 358-2790 or file an online mortality report.
CDFW urges caution when going out for outdoor activities and asks travelers not to handle or disturb rabbit carcasses in order to minimize the potential spread of the disease.
Those who own rabbits are advised to practice good biosecurity measures to protect their animals. That means washing your hands before and after working with rabbits, not sharing equipment with other owners, and keeping their rabbits isolated from wild or feral rabbits.
Officials noted that Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease is not related to the coronavirus, it does not affect humans or other animals other than rabbits.
Stay with News Channel 3 for any updates.