If you’ve noticed a lot of rabbits in your neighborhood, you may be worried about the impact they can have on your health and safety. After all, if small animals like wild rats and mice are known for spreading disease, maybe rabbits are too.
Wild rabbit populations are not considered a public health hazard and are not dangerous to humans. However, they can carry a disease called tularemia that spreads if you directly handle an infected rabbit or eat undercooked meat. Rabbits do not spread disease to humans through their urine or feces.
That being said, tularemia is a relatively rare disease, with only about 200 cases per year in the entire United States. Most of these cases don’t even come from rabbits but are instead spread by ticks, flies, and rodents. If you avoid touching wild rabbits (and teach your kids to do the same) there is little chance you will be infected with the disease even when you live in a neighborhood with a thriving rabbit population.
Are wild rabbits dangerous to humans?
Wild rabbits can be a big danger to your garden, but not to people. Unlike rodents, rabbits do not carry many zoonotic diseases that can be spread to human populations. It is highly unlikely that you or your children will get sick from having a lot of wild rabbits in your backyard.
The only disease that rabbits can really spread to humans is something called tularemia (or rabbit fever), but you would need to come into contact with a dead or dying rabbit to catch it from them.
Tularemia is most common in the central southern states (Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma especially), but cases have occurred in every US state except Hawaii. The spread of the disease is also more common in the summer months.
That being said, it is not a common disease and it’s rare for there to be even 300 total cases in the entire USA in a year. Unless your profession leads you to come into contact with sick or dead wild rabbits, it’s unlikely that a large wild rabbit population in your neighborhood is going to lead you to be infected with the disease.
Can pet dogs get tularemia if they catch a rabbit?
If you have a pet dog, they can also be infected with tularemia if the dog manages to catch a rabbit. If your dog has strong rabbit-hunting instincts, you may want to keep them on a leash in areas where there are large rabbit populations, especially in areas where tularemia is more common, such as Arkansas and Missouri.
However, even though dogs can catch tularemia from wild rabbits, it’s unlikely to cause serious illness in them. In fact, most dogs that come into contact with the disease will have no symptoms at all. However, very young dogs or dogs with prior health complications can develop some symptoms that will occasionally be severe, so it’s best to contact your vet if your dog is showing any signs of illness after coming into contact with a rabbit.
A dog that contracts tularemia from a rabbit can also spread it to humans, but this is also very rare. It will generally only be spread through bites and scratches that break the skin, so most dogs are well-behaved and won’t spread the disease to their humans.
Is it safe to touch wild bunnies?
Avoid touching wild rabbits whenever possible. Tularemia can be spread by touching an infected animal. Since rabbits can get the disease, it’s best to avoid touching them.
The good news is, you’re not going to accidentally touch a wild rabbit. Most rabbits, even sick rabbits, will run before anyone can get within 10 feet of them, so even if there are a lot of wild rabbits in your neighborhood, there’s little chance you’ll ever touch one. Tularemia tends to be more of a danger for hunters or anyone who handles dead rabbits.
What to do if you touched a wild rabbit
If you touched a wild rabbit, it probably means that either the rabbit was a baby that you happened across (maybe while mowing your lawn) or the rabbit was sick. Either way, you want to make sure you thoroughly wash your hands. It’s rare to catch anything from a rabbit, but since there is the risk of tularemia, it’s best to take common sense precautions and wash your hands.
You also should keep an eye out for symptoms of tularemia so you can catch the spread of the disease early. The CDC has more information on the signs and symptoms of tularemia so you can contact your doctor if you notice anything and believe you have contracted the disease.
Do rabbits carry rabies?
While it is technically possible for wild rabbits to get rabies, it is incredibly rare. Most rabbits who are infected with the disease die before ever having the chance to spread it. In fact, there are no known cases of a rabbit spreading rabies to a human even in areas where rabies has been widespread among raccoon populations.
Will a wild rabbit try to attack people?
Wild rabbits are not aggressive. They have no predator instincts and tend to be extremely anxious and timid. Instead, they are much more likely to run and hide if anyone ever gets too close to them.
Will rabbits attack children?
This goes for children too. While it’s important to keep babies and children safe in areas where you might find wild wolverines, foxes, or other predators, rabbits are not going to try to attack a baby. Whether you’re a child or an adult, wild rabbits will see you as a threat and run away if you try to go near them.
Does wild rabbit poop or urine spread disease
Wild rabbits are fairly clean compared to many other wild animals. Neither their poop nor their urine is known to spread any diseases to humans. It’s also okay if your pet dog happens across the rabbit poo in the yard since it doesn’t spread disease to dogs either.
Is rabbit poop bad for your lawn?
If you have lots of rabbits in your neighborhood, you’ll likely find their poop on your lawn occasionally. Believe it or not, this is actually good for the health of the plants and soil. Rabbit poop contains a lot of trace nutrients that are beneficial to plant growth. It acts as a natural fertilizer.
Since rabbit poop does not spread any diseases to humans, it’s even okay if you find their poop around food plants you are growing and intend to eat. Of course, that’s assuming the rabbit didn’t have a good time munching in your garden. Humans may not be in danger from a rabbit attack, but rabbits love chomping on gardens.
- “Other Wild Animals.” CDC. January 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/exposure/animals/other.html
- “Tularemia.” CDC. December 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/tularemia/index.html
- “Tularemia ‘Rabbit Fever’ in Dogs.” Lake Norman Animal Hospital. https://www.mooresvilleanimalhospital.com/site/blog/2020/08/31/tularemia-rabbit-fever-in-dogs
- “What to do About Wild Rabbits.” The Humane Society. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/what-do-about-wild-rabbits