‘Rabbit fever’ outbreak believed to be cause of 9 beaver deaths in Utah, wildlife officials say

Apr 15, 2024, 4:00 PM

a dead beaver, 9 beaver deaths are being attributed to rabbit fever...

A dead beaver found in Utah on April 9. Utah wildlife officials say that nine beavers and one vole have died in recent weeks from a suspected tularemia outbreak. (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

(Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah wildlife officials are urging residents to take precautions and report dead rabbits and rodents after three dead beavers tested positive for tularemia, while seven other animals found in three counties are believed to have also died from the disease.

The rash of deaths was first discovered a few weeks ago. Five beavers died near the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter, an area north of Park City, between March 23 and April 2, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. All five beavers had shared a lodge on the preserve.

Division biologists discovered another dead beaver near Midway on April 5, before three more were found near Jordanelle Dam and Birdseye, in Utah County, between April 8 and April 10. A vole, another rodent species, was also found dead near the Jordanelle Dam.

Three of the beaver carcasses were submitted for testing at the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and the Utah Public Health Lab and all three tested positive for the disease, which is also referred to as “rabbit fever,” “hare plague” or “deerfly fever.”

The disease is caused by bacteria spread by tick or deerfly bites, but also by direct contact with blood or tissue from infected animals or the ingestion of contaminated water, undercooked rabbit or hare meat from an infected animal, division officials said on Monday. The last known case was discovered near Kanab in 2017.

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‘Rabbit fever’ outbreak believed to be cause of 9 beaver deaths in Utah, wildlife officials say