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Concerns over rabbits dying of Myxomatosis at Ladderedge Country Park in Leek

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: January 23, 2014

By Belinda Hargreaves

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A NEW friends group at a country park have expressed concerns over a bout of rabbit disease.

Walkers and other users of Ladderedge Country Park have discovered a series of rabbit carcasses at the site on the outskirts of Leek.

The newly-formed Friends of Ladderedge Country Park has raised its concerns with Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, which manages the park, about the number of dead rabbits that are being spotted.

The deaths are believed to have been caused by a bout of Myxomatosis. At their recent meeting, Friends members were told that there have been "so many rabbit carcasses around the site recently".

Jane Moulder said: "I don't believe there have been any shootings of rabbits or anything like that, as there is no such evidence of it.

"I think it's down to the Myxomatosis."

Friends chairman Anni Hollings said: "I think this should be something that the council should look into.

"Perhaps we can ask them about removing the rabbit carcasses.

"Perhaps we could ask for some notices to go up around the park informing people that there is a case of Myxomatosis and to leave any carcasses alone if found.

"We also need to advise dog owners that the disease is not harmful to dogs so they can continue to walk there."

Although it is not known how far spread this case of Myxomatosis in Leek is.

However, it is believed that it has been affecting rabbits in the Ladderedge area since November.

A spokesman for Staffordshire Moorlands District Council said: "Since its introduction in the 1950s, Myxomatosis is always present in the wild.

"It tends to appear periodically as the number of rabbits in a location increases, enabling the disease to spread more quickly.

"It is understandable that people visiting Ladderedge Country Park are upset, but there is no treatment available to stop rabbits contracting the disease.

"Some strains are more virulent than others and some animals have natural immunity.

"We will speak to the Friends group about how best to manage the number of carcasses in the area in a way which allows other wildlife to benefit, but removes the dead rabbits from public view."

He added: "We'd also like to reassure people that the disease does not affect dogs or other animals and poses no threat to people."

MYXOMATOSIS is a disease of rabbits, both domestic and wild, which is caused by the Myxoma virus, a member of the pox family.

It does not affect any other mammals. The virus is transmitted by biting insects. It may also be transmitted directly between rabbits if they are in very close proximity, although this is much less common. The first clinical sign to appear is conjunctivitis – 'red eye' – with a runny discharge. The rabbit may be dull, with a loss of appetite and develops a high fever.

Some rabbits may die very quickly, others can develop swollen eyes, lips, nose and ears, with laboured breathing. It is present throughout Europe and in Australia

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