Thursday, March 8, 2018

Rabbit Fever

Rabbits are one of my favorite game animals to hunt. They're tasty and plentiful, the season is long, and the license is cheap. They're so very easy to raise that many people keep them as domestic livestock, especially in suburban areas.

While rabbits are in fact a wonderful source of lean protein, there are a couple issues to be aware of before you incorporate them into your diet.

Rabbit Fever
Tularemia, or "rabbit fever", is a bacterial infection that wild rabbits are particularly susceptible and can readily transmit to humans. (It can also be transmitted by ticks, biting flies, and other vectors.)

Tularemia presents with a very high fever, as well as ulcers or lesions. While it can be treated with antibiotics, it can also be life-threatening. The disease is not carried nor transmitted by domestic rabbits, so livestock animals are safe.

There are a few steps you can take to prevent tularemia infection:
  • Wear long pants and long sleeves in the woods. 
  • Wear latex or nitrile gloves while field dressing rabbits (or any other game animal, for that matter). 
  • My best advice for rabbit hunters is to wait until after the first hard freeze of the season. A couple days of freezing temperatures will kill sick animals, as well as the bacteria itself.

Rabbit Starvation
The other concern with adding rabbit to your diet is protein poisoning, also known as "rabbit starvation." I mentioned earlier that rabbit was a lean protein; in fact, it's so lean that you can actually suffer starvation symptoms while gorged on it.

Rabbit has roughly 8% fat, as opposed to beef at better than 30%. Any large quantity of rabbit in your diet has to be supplemented by some kind of fat, either in the cooking (oil or butter, for example) or in the rest of the meal (nuts, avocado, and other fatty foods). The danger is so real that the US Army Arctic training unit recommends eating nothing instead of rabbit if rabbit is the sole food available.

With these concerns in mind, rabbit is a wonderful meat. If you have the space and the inclination, they're awesome livestock. They breed prolifically and at a young age, so they're fairly easy to build a stock of. If you have access to wilderness, you likely have rabbits that can be hunted, and they're a wonderful introduction to hunting and a great way to hone your skills.


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