(CBS4) – Colorado Parks and Wildlife is concerned about a virus killing rabbits in 15 counties. Officials say cottontail rabbits are contracting Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus type 2.

(credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Scientists had previously considered RHDV-2 to be a foreign animal disease that could not infect North American cottontails or hares. However, cases are now confirmed in several southwestern states, including Colorado.

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RHDV-2 was first identified in Colorado in April of 2020. On Tuesday, CPW announced new cases of the virus in Garfield and Saguache counties.

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In Garfield County, a dog found cottontail carcasses that tested positive for the virus. Officials say RHDV-2 is not a risk to pets other than domestic rabbits, but they ask owners not to let their pets feed on carcasses because of the risk from other diseases. The virus is not related to COVID-19.

To date, officials have also found the virus in Adams, Alamosa, Custer, Denver, El Paso, Elbert, Garfield, Huerfano, La Plata, Las Animas, Larimer, Mesa, Prowers, Pueblo, and Saguache. Both cottontails and jackrabbits have been affected.

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CPW said it is particularly concerned for the disease emerging in snowshoe hare and pika. Officials ask residents to report three or more dead rabbits within a two-week period to CPW at 303-297-1192. For more information about RHDV-2, click here.

Audra Streetman