An unusual looking rabbit was spotted in north St. Cloud that looks like it has tentacles or horns.  Cottontail rabbits with this unusual appearance are infected with Shope papilloma virus, also known as the cottontail rabbit papillomavirus, a wart-like condition that affects the species. The growths appear only on a rabbit's head.

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photo - Jason Soria
photo - Jason Soria

The carcinomas can metastasize or become large enough to interfere with the host's ability to eat, causing starvation.  The virus was originally discovered in cottontail rabbits in 1933 in the Midwestern United States but can also infect jackrabbits, snowshoe hares and domestic rabbits.

Rabbits re-infected with the virus show some or complete immunity, and can transmit the virus to other wild rabbits, and from wild to domestic rabbits. A domestic strain cannot transmit it to another domestic rabbit, however.


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