Here in Calgary, we see a lot of "rabbits" in and around town every day, but did you know that not all "rabbits" out in the wild are truly wild?
Unfortunately knowing the difference has never been more important than right now, as a terrible rabbit disease called RHDV has made its way into our city. (Please note: RHDV does not pose danger to humans or other animals not in the lagomorph family).
In Alberta, we have two species of hares and one type of true wild rabbit. But here in Calgary, we are most likely to see the white-tailed jackrabbit/prairie hare and a not-so-wild type of rabbit called "domestic feral rabbits".
It's important to know the difference between our wild jackrabbits/hares and the domestic feral rabbits we often see in various parts of the city when it comes to knowing who to call and how to handle a situation with an injured or orphaned "rabbit" needs help.
So how can we tell the difference between our wild hares/rabbits and domestic feral rabbits? Their fur colouring can be one of the biggest indicators.
Wild white-tailed jackrabbit/prairie hares fur changes colour with the seasons, from mottled brown in the warm months to white in the cold ones. They also have long slender ears, bigger, stronger hind legs, and an elongated head.
If you find one in need of help, please call Calgary Wildlife.
Domestic feral rabbits' fur comes in huge variations of colours, from black to white to brown, with all sorts of spots and patterns in between. Their fur does not change colours with the seasons! This is because domestic feral rabbits are actually pet rabbits that have been abandoned outdoors! They also have shorter ears, smaller, weaker hind legs, and a rounder head.
Unfortunately, at this time if you find a sick or deceased domestic feral rabbit, it is best to keep your distance and report it to the Alberta Environment and Parks office, or the City at 311.
For more information on RHDV, click here.
*Due to the many confirmed and suspected cases of RHDV in local domestic feral rabbit colonies, animal rescue organizations are not currently accepting any domestic feral rabbits.
**Calgary Wildlife is still accepting wild hare/rabbit species, but this may change as the situation develops, as RHDV is extremely infectious and can affect both wild hares and rabbits.