Hares don’t only get tularemia…

Two hares submitted to the Dutch Wildlife Health Centre at the start of 2015 for post-mortem exam had died from toxoplasmosis. The animals, from Utrecht and Drenthe, had a moderate nutritional status and one had inflammation in the lungs, liver, brain and heart. When tissues from both animals were examined under the microscope there was evidence for infection with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii; this was later confirmed with molecular testing performed at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). The frequency with which this disease occurs in hares in the Netherlands is not known. Toxoplasmosis has been associated with high mortality rates in hares in other countries [1].
This microscopic parasite can cause disease in a wide range of warm-blooded animals including humans. The consumption of dead hares by pets or people should, for this reason, be avoided and gloves should be worn if handling cadavers.

Reporting dead hares

The DWHC will continue to monitor the health status, and in particular, the occurrence of toxoplasma in the Dutch hare population and you can help by reporting finding a dead animal via the submission form on our website. For microscopic examination of these animals it is essential that the cadavers are in a fresh state i.e. not dead for more than one day; cadavers should not be frozen. It is therefore preferable to report dead hares as soon as possible and to keep the cadaver in a cool (not frozen) place until it can be collected. After submitting your form you will be contacted by the DWHC who will help decide whether the animal is suitable for submission and advise you on how to package the cadaver and arrange collection of the packaged hare from your home or place of work.

For more information about toxoplasmosis in people visit the website of the OIE

  1. Natural toxoplasma gondii infections in European brown hares and mountain hares in Finland: proportional mortality rate, antibody prevalence, and genetic characterization. Jokelainen P, Isomursu M, Näreaho A, Oksanen A.
    J Wildl Dis. 2011 Jan;47(1):154-63.