Minister extends the suspension of hare tagging licences
THE suspension of licences issued to the Irish Coursing Club to capture and tag hares for the 2019/2020 hare coursing season has been extended following the arrival in Ireland of a disease fatal to rabbits and hares.
Rabbit Haemorrhagic disease (RHD2) was found in Irish domestic rabbits in 2018 but had never been reported in the wild until August, when cases were confirmed in Counties Wicklow, Wexford and Clare. Since then, the disease has also been recorded in Cork, Leitrim and Offaly.
While most of the confirmed reports to date have been in rabbits, the disease has also been recorded in hares. The native Irish hare is found nowhere else and, should this disease prove as infectious and lethal as it has done elsewhere in Europe, the impact on the hare could be catastrophic.
Because of this, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, has decided to maintain the suspension of the licences issued to the Irish Coursing Club.
The collecting of hares for coursing meetings poses a significant risk factor to the spreading of RHD2. However, the decision to continue the suspension of licences will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is renewing its request to the public to report any suspected cases. The public – particularly landowners, farmers, vets and the hare coursing community – is being asked to be on high alert and to report any suspected sightings of diseased rabbits and hares as soon as possible to help efforts to monitor and control the disease.
The virus is extremely resistant, remaining viable for up to two months in the environment. It can be passed on by direct contact, but also in faeces and urine. Infected carcasses can harbour infective virus for several months. The virus can also be transported on soil, shoes and clothing as well as by insects. It can be killed, however, using suitable disinfectants (e.g. Virkon).
Biosecurity measures have been put in place at NPWS and OPW sites where the disease has been confirmed and NPWS Conservation Rangers continue to monitor the situation nationally.
Rabbit Haemorrhagic disease presents absolutely no threat to human health and it is entirely safe to handle infected or recently dead rabbits or hares provided normal hygiene is followed.
To report a suspected case of RHD2, contact the NPWS on 1890 383 000) or nature.conserva[email protected]