Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is a highly contagious and often fatal illness that affects adult wild and domesticated rabbits of the Oryctolagus cuniculus species. This disease has been known to cause significant declines in wild rabbit populations, mainly when it is first introduced. The question often arises is whether RHD can spread to other animals, particularly coyotes that eat infected rabbits.
This blog post will explore the potential spread of RHD from infected rabbits to coyotes in Borrego Springs and the surrounding Anza-Borrego State Park.
It is important to note that RHDV/RHDVa replication has not been reported in other mammals, including rabbit predators such as coyotes. Scientists have also tried giving the virus to 28 different animals but did not cause any illness, and the virus did not multiply in their bodies. Studies also showed that RHDV, RHDVa, and EBHSV cannot replicate in coyotes.
(Source: “Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus: A review,” Journal of Comparative Pathology, Volume 153, Issue 3, September 2015, Pages 131-139)
However, seroconversion (the development of antibodies in response to a specific antigen) can occur in coyotes that have consumed infected rabbits. This means that coyotes may be exposed to the virus but cannot become infected or spread the disease.
(Source: “Rabbit haemorrhagic disease in European rabbits and its potential impact on wild lagomorphs and their predators,” Biological Conservation, Volume 143, Issue 7, July 2010, Pages 1715-1724)
In conclusion, while seroconversion can occur in coyotes that have consumed infected rabbits, RHDV replication has not been reported in other mammals, including coyotes. This means that coyotes cannot become infected or spread the disease. However, it is still important to take precautions when handling wild rabbits in Borrego Springs and the surrounding Anza-Borrego State Park to prevent the spread of RHD to other rabbit populations.