Hares are being found dead of disease across the UK.
The lead scientist on the outbreak, Dr Diana Bell of the University of East Anglia, says she is receiving multiple reports of hare deaths, “from Scotland, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Bath, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex to name but a few locations often reporting several deaths at each site. These have mainly occurred over the past four weeks and are continuing to happen,” she says.
Members of the public are sending her photographs of dead and dying hares. Many of these show, she says, “characteristic symptoms of myxomatosis so we are convinced that this has made a widespread jump to hares”. However, She is not excluding the possibility that other pathogens may also be at work.
The hunting and shooting community believe this could be from tularemia, which occurs mainly in Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and the US, and has recently been found in hares in France. Tularemia can jump to humans and recently killed a member of a German hare-shooting party.
Dr Bell requests fresh carcasses so she can conduct thorough post-mortems If you find a dead or dying hare, please email her D.Bell@uea.ac.uk
“We are dealing with huge numbers of reports which we are trying to analyse in terms of date and location,” she says.