New Mexico wildlife managers say recent deaths in both wild jackrabbit and cottontail populations were the result of a hemorrhagic disease known as RHDV-2.
The New Mexico Game and Fish Department and state Livestock Board report the disease is highly contagious among rabbits, including domestic rabbits, but it is not known to be transmittable to humans or other pets.
It is from a different viral family from the coronavirus and is not related to COVID-19.
The New Mexico Game and Fish Department collected carcasses for testing after reports of dead wild rabbits in early March. Tests were also done on domestic rabbits and both groups were positive for RHDV- 2.
Officials say deaths in wild populations have only been reported in southern and eastern New Mexico.
Wildlife managers are asking that people report any large numbers of wild rabbits to their local conservation officer or the agency’s information center.
Officials say dead rabbit or rodent carcasses should not be handled as they can harbor pathogens.
As for hunters, they should wear gloves when handling harvested rabbits and wash their hands well afterward. Officials say meat from healthy rabbits harvested by hunters is safe to consume when cooked thoroughly.