Deadly disease blamed for rabbit deaths

A rabbit with myxomatosis.
A rabbit with myxomatosis.
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An outbreak of myxomatosis has been blamed for deaths of wild rabbits at Sunderland Point.

The Visitor investigated after a reader contacted us after spying “up to 30” dead rabbits while walking on the shore near the village.

Mary Walsh said: “I found it very distressing. Many of the live rabbits I saw were docile, they didn’t react normally and had patches of fur missing and just weren’t behaving as rabbits normally do by quickly hopping away.”

Margaret Owen, who lives at Sunderland Point, said: “It’s myxomatosis, when I first came here 30-odd years ago it used to happen on a regular basis and it’s happened again after a big population explosion of rabbits over the past few years.”

A spokesman for the Rabbit Welfare Association said: “The disease is spread by biting insects and the only way to protect the rabbits is vaccination. It’s a cyclical thing and can happen in areas where there is low lying water.”

Myxomatosis can cause swellings on the heads of rabbits and a severe conjunctivitis which causes blindness.