Home Forums Campfire Forum Tularemia and Hunting Safety

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    • Ben M.
      Post count: 460

      So I’ve been shooting at rabbits lately, which is not something I normally do, but when that bow touches my hand my heart just leaps with the desire to hunt!

      I often bring home wild edibles and my children thrive on them. Dewberries, oyster mushrooms, and jerusalem artichokes are not uncommon fare on our table. But what about wild meat? Several of my friends have recently cautioned me against eating wild rabbit during summer with the fear that we will contract rabbit fever (tularemia). According to the CDC nearly all game we hunt can carry tularemia, and it can be contracted at any time of year:


      Out of millions of tick bites, deer fly bites, and wild animals eaten, there were only 1,208 cases of tularemia reported from 2001-2010:


      So what do you folks think? Does anyone else here eat wild rabbit during summer? How concerned are you about contracting tularemia from the animals you hunt?

    • Raymond CoffmanRaymond Coffman
      Post count: 1035

      After First frost was the old rule – cottontails —

      I have eaten rabbit at other times and I am still here – probably best to cook it well – like pork —

      I am sure there are some other members who have more info, as to the science of it–


    • David Petersen
      Post count: 2749

      Other threads here, First and Second Kills, have worried me on precisely this account. Most states set rabbit seasons to begin in Oct. to be after the first frost, which supposedly either kills “rabbit fever” or kills the sick rabbits that have it. Yet I too have eaten many a summer rabbit–my Boy Scout troop was old school, great leaders just back from WWII and/or Korea, mostly farm boys who knew how to survive by foraging. Among the skills they taught us was building snares for bunnies, and we caught and ate many in summer, cooked on a spit over a campfire. But even then the folk wisdom was to not clean a summer rabbit if you had cuts or sores on your hands, and to cook the meat well. While I have no scientific facts on this ready at hand, and too lazy to look ’em up just now, these cautions always worked for me.

    • lyagooshka
      Post count: 600

      Prairie Prowler,

      Please do not consider me an expert by any means, but there are many resources out there now a days, so a person can form their own opinion. I concur with CyberScout about “treating rabbit like pork”. I would never use Wikipedia as a professional reference, but I have found that it is always a good place to start. Here is what they have to say:

      Tularemia (also known as Pahvant Valley plague,[1] rabbit fever,[1] deer fly fever, and Ohara’s fever[2]:286) is a serious infectious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis.[3] A Gram-negative, nonmotile coccobacillus, the bacterium has several subspecies with varying degrees of virulence. The most important of those is F. tularensis tularensis (Type A), which is found in lagomorphs in North America, and is highly virulent in humans and domestic rabbits. F. tularensis palaearctica (Type B) occurs mainly in aquatic rodents (beavers, muskrats) in North America and in hares and small rodents in northern Eurasia. It is less virulent for humans and rabbits.[4] The primary vectors are ticks and deer flies, but the disease can also be spread through other arthropods.[3] The disease is named after Tulare County, California.

      Breaking it down, Tularemia is caused by a bacteria, so cooking to the appropriate temperature should kill it. Another method (I believe used for pork) is prolonged freezing. This should kill any bacteria present. Also, the bacterium is passed through “ticks and deer flies”. There is not much mention of eating an infected animal as being the cause. So, safe handling of the game may be just as (if not more) important in this case than the actual consumption practice.

      As with anything, common sense should prevail. If an animal appears ill, no matter what the actual pathogen, it should not be consumed. If you couple that with safe preparation (cooking to appropriate temperature, especially in a crock-pot which holds the meat at a temperature for an extended period) there should be no problem.

      Again, I am not an expert, but I have found that the CDC has many articles that appear to be there more for the “scare” factor than for actual reference. Raw milk is a good example. I won’t get into it here, but the argument against it is valid only is your supplier is less than reputable. An example I would use for this particular case is that of the 1208 cases in the past 10 years (I believe you are more likely to be struck by lightning), there is no mention of the “cause”. Was it from eating infected game or from a tick or fly bite while out in the field?

      Ultimately, the choice is yours, and again, I am not an expert, but I would hate to see anyone give up something (or anything for that matter) without having all that available data to make an informed decision. Good luck, be well and stay safe.



    • JodyS
      Post count: 114

      Hey fellas,

      I will weigh in here as a health care professional (pharmacist). The above answer of not eating wild rabbit until after the frost is a sound one. Tularemia, in my clinical experience in working as hospital pharmacist for a decade, is nasty.

      We have had very few cases (as noted in an earlier reply noting the CDC stats); but the cases that we see are tough ones. The antibiotics used to treat it are almost always IV and the course of therapy is four to six weeks. Some of the antibiotics that are the drug of choice to treat it can cause some ringing in the ears, slight hearing loss, etc.

      The heavy artillery antibiotics used are necessary due to many microbes gaining resistance to current antibiotics. Thus, they are tougher buggers to eradicate.

      Tularemia is not to be taken lightly. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that safety should come first. Personally, I wouldn’t eat wild rabbit until a good week or so after several frosts.


    • wildschwein
      Post count: 581

      Just wondering if this mostly relates to cottontails, and if this parasite is only found in the USA?

      Where I live my only lagamorph is the snowshoe hare, and the majority of hares that I have killed and eaten has been during the summer months from June to August. My Province has no season or limits on these fluff balls and no warning of this parasite appear in our hunting regs.

    • lyagooshka
      Post count: 600


      I agree with you completely. Like anything, better safe than sorry. If you need IV ABX, it really sounds serious. Here is something to just stir the pot a bit…

      Based on vectors (and the idea of getting rabbits after first frost) it seems eating the meat is not the issue. Exposure to flies and ticks is.


      Is it wiser to just not hunt rabbits or even be in their habitat at that time?

      I guess I would liken this to deer and Lyme disease.



      I’m pretty sure the disease is across the border. I am just thinking it is not in the hunting regs (it is not in Pennsylvania hunting regs as a warning either) since the prevalence is relatively low. This compared to eating certain fish too often (which is a warning in our fishing regs) may not be prevalent enough. BUT, as Jody said, it is a particularly nasty disease. Even if odds are one in a million, you sure don’t want to be that one. Common sense should always prevail. Beyond that, if you are worried, the health department of your province should have records of all cases that you should be able to access.

      Be well and be safe…



    • Charles EkCharles Ek
      Post count: 563

      It’s been about fifty years since my mother, a medical technologist in the days when rabbits played a large role in a certain test, who had also consumed a fair number of rabbits during a Depression-era childhood, gave me two rules to follow:

      1. Never field dress or otherwise handle the raw meat without gloves.

      2. Cook it well.

      I’m disinclined to start rebelling any time soon.

    • wildschwein
      Post count: 581

      Lots of good advice in this thread.

      I have always carried gloves for dressing out my deer (not for hygenic reasons, but because warm blood can make for cold hands in a hurry when our November temps are -20*C), and now I will carry them around during my bunny hunts as well. Also gonna inspect the exterior of any bunny for visible parasites as well.

      Who woulda thought these cute wittle fellas could be home to such a thing.

    • Ben M.
      Post count: 460

      Here is a brief article from a credible source on checking an animal for tularemia:


      I do this sort of “backyard necropsy” on any animal before I dress/butcher it (wild or domestic)-checking teeth, liver, lymph nodes, etc. for signs of illness.


      Your bow is beautiful! What’s it made of and what are its specs?

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