The last few weeks have seen several cases of sick hares reported with worrying signs in Norfolk and Suffolk, with the UEA studying the cases to see if it could potentially be Myxomatosis or another disease.
Myxomatosis is historically a disease that affects rabbits, caused by the myxoma virus. It was introduced into Australia in 1950 in an attempt to control the rabbit population. The disease first reached the UK in 1953, where it was originally considered an effective rabbit bio-control measure, before 99% of rabbits were killed by the disease in just 3 years and the intentional introduction was banned.
The disease is spread by direct contact with an affected animal or from biting insects and in rabbits they usually die within 14 days of contracting the disease, developing skin tumours, blindness, fatigue and fever. The myxomatosis virus is known for its ability to mutate from year to year. However, it has not been reported mutating into another species. There are several other diseases too with similar signs that could be responsible, however as of yet the disease has not been confirmed, therefore all cases need to be reported and tested.
This week has seen the first case of a Hare showing similar signs near Halstead.
If you see a Hare acting unusually or displaying any possible signs, please send your records to Essex Wildlife Trust on firstname.lastname@example.org and Diana Bell from the University of East Anglia at email@example.com, with a photo of its head and rear, so the spread of this disease can be monitored.