summer parasites
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Summer Parasites – A reminder for Health and Safety

by Ron Stephen
Well, to be honest, my original intention for this article, was to write a simple tutorial on how to properly field dress a Rabbit.
That changed while I was in the process of dressing this Rabbit, to an even more important subject,… that I will share with you all here. I have always heard that it is not a good idea to eat Wild Rabbit during the warmer months of late Spring through early Winter.
 I have heard it described as :
 “Never eat Wild Rabbit in months that are not spelled with an “R”
 (May, June, July, August). But depending on your location and typical weather, (especially in warmer climates such as we have here in southern California), we should also toss in September, and possibly October too. The idea behind this, is that most Parasites are either dormant or die off in the cold winter months, and in area’s that have snow, it is believed the Parasites do not survive “After the first Good Freeze”. (Here in  Southern California, we rarely get snow below 4000′ elevation) I suppose these old sayings of “Months without an R”, or “After the first Good Freeze” are not really hard line RULES,…but it brings us to the point of this article. That point is, ALWAYS thoroughly inspect your kills, and Be Mindful of any Unhealthy Game. We are now in the warmer months, and all the bugs, creepy crawlers, parasites are most active now. So it is important to keep in mind, pay attention, and closely inspect any kills you intend to eat. I took this rabbit yesterday in San Bernadino County on one of my permissions. I was dressing it out, and taking pics with the intention of presenting a “How To  Dress Out a Rabbit”.  I was going to include step by step instruction with each pic, but we’ll do that some other time, with a healthy and safe to eat game animal.
The priority for this article changed when I noticed this on the cutting board of my dressing table. What the heck is that thing ? and Why is it moving ?
EWwww… it’s a Bot Fly Larvae ! YUCK ! these are sometimes called “Wolves” , Warble flies, Heel flies, Gadflies,
So Yeah,….
 I wont be making any Rabbit Stew with this weeks bunny, and we can just toss it out for the Coyotes to feed on. (haven’t seen many of those on the permission lately), but we Did have one walk right out in front of us at only 50 yds a couple of weeks ago. Wouldn’t you know it, I hadn’t even taken my rifle out of the truck yet, and the Coyote seemed to know that, since he was in no hurry, and just slowly trotted away, straight down our target shooting lane. GRrrrrrrr ! This also warrants a mention to those of you hunting Coyotes, … as they are fraught full of Fleas, Ticks, Deer-flies, and who knows what else right now. These critters can infect both your game, and/or You too. So BE CAREFUL,… and use proper protection, if you plan on handling any kills during this time of year. They can carry a whole list of diseases one of which is Tularemia. So do your homework, and be properly prepared. Check your clothing often, check yourself and or your kids, pets, etc, after being in the field.
Here is some additional info/reading from the web on the subjects…

        Bot Fly Infestation

The Bot Fly or Cuterebra (Cute-a Ree-bra) is the larval form of a small fly like insect. The Bot Fly larva forms a pocket under the hosts skin, that grows as the larvae matures, called a “warble”. These warbles are most commonly found at the mouth, neck or flanks of the rabbit. Parasitic in nature, the Bot fly will deposit its eggs on a host such as a rabbit, or on an intermediate host such as a house fly or mosquito, transferring its eggs when the fly or mosquito lands on the hosts body. Bot fly’s may also lay their eggs on plants and surfaces near animal burrows/homes where they are then transferred to the host as it passes by. These eggs then hatch and enter the host animals body by way of a wound or by burrowing into the hosts body. The Bot Fly may also be ingested through plant material and migrate its way to the dermal layer where the same process then occurs. Once under the skin the maturing larva forms a growing lump called a warble where it will live until ready for its next
stage of development. The warble is typically oblong. The larva will cut a hole in the top of the warble forming a darker spot (warble pore) to breathe through, then uses it’s mouth hooks to secure itself. The Bot Fly larvae uses its warble much like other insects would use a cocoon to develop. It does not in fact digest the hosts live tissue, but digests the tissue exudate (secretions) of the host. As the warble grows with the maturing larvae the warble may occasionally be mistaken for an abscess. While unnerving and disgusting, it is rarely fatal, and once mature the larvae will crawl from its warble, fall from the host and develop into its pupae form in the soil.  It causes no more than mild irritation to the host. More than one warble may form at a time. The danger in Bot Fly infestation is the likely-hood of infection at the warble site. We don’t recommend trying to remove Bot Fly larvae on your own and recommend the bunn be brought to a veterinarian.

If the larvae is crushed in the removal process it can cause an anaphalactic (severe allergic) reaction leading to the death of the bunn. A vet is better equipped to fascilitate its removal.

Stages of Bot Fly Infestation:

Week 1:

  • swelling
  • abscess
  • redness
  • a lump with missing fur from animal scratching at site.

Week 2:

  • the warble protrudes prominantly from the animals body.
  • the tip of the warble, the spiracle through which the larvae breathes is visible.
  • discharge, blood, pus or a browish material.

By week 3-4, the larvae matures and drops to the ground to pupate.
The animal is left with a hole where the larvae was living.  Most of the time the wounds will heal requiring no treatment.
However, at times these pockets may become infected and require treatment.
The animal heals and there is little evidence of warble infestation.


Tularemia (Rabbit fever)

What is tularemia?

Tularemia is an illness caused by a bacteria, Francisella tularensis, which can affect both animals and humans. Most cases occur during the summer months when deer-flies and ticks are abundant and the early winter months during rabbit hunting season. During hunting season, illness usually results from skinning infected rabbits.

Who gets tularemia?

Anyone can get tularemia if they spend time outdoors in areas where infected animals, deer-flies or ticks, can be found. Rabbit hunters, trappers, and laboratory workers exposed to the bacteria are at higher risk.
How is tularemia spread?
The most common way tularemia is spread is by the bite of an infected blood sucking insect such as a deer-fly or tick. Another way people get tularemia is by getting blood or tissue from infected animals (especially rabbits) in their eyes, mouth, or in cuts or scratches on the skin. Tularemia can also be spread by handling or eating rabbit meat that is not cooked well. Drinking contaminated water or breathing dust containing the bacteria can also spread tularemia. Person to person spread does not occur.
What are the symptoms of tularemia?
The usual symptoms of tularemia are fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, chest pain, and coughing. If tularemia is caused by the bite of an infected insect or from bacteria entering a cut or scratch, it usually causes a skin ulcer and swollen glands. Eating or drinking food or water containing the bacteria may produce a throat infection, stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. Breathing dust containing the bacteria may cause a pneumonia-like illness.
How soon do symptoms appear?
Symptoms may appear between two and ten days, most often within three to five days.
What is the treatment for tularemia?
Antibiotics such as streptomycin and gentamicin are used to treat tularemia.
What can be done to prevent the spread of tularemia?

1. Persons at risk should reduce chances for insect bites by wearing protective clothing, and by searching for ticks often and removing attached ticks immediately. Tick/insect repellents containing “DEET” provide additional protection. Permethrin is also helpful when sprayed onto clothing.
2. Children should be discouraged from handling sick or dead rabbits, or other possibly infected animals.
3. Gloves should be worn when skinning or handling animals, especially wild rabbits.
4. Wild rabbit meat should be thoroughly cooked.
5. Face masks, gowns, and rubber gloves should be worn by those working with cultures or infective material in a laboratory.

Where can I get more information?

* Your personal doctor
* Your local health department, listed in the telephone directory


With regard to Tularemia. For those who hunt predators, particularly predators that (can) prey on rodents (as most do), bears, foxes, coyotes, lynx/bobcat, etc., those predators are potential for contracting tularemia.

OK everyone, I hope you find this informative and a good reminder to Pay Attention out there.

THINK about what you are doing…. Watch what you are preparing for your dinner table,….. and don’t get lazy, .

(unless of course, you enjoy eating gross bugs and getting sick) haha

Take care, Have fun, and Shoot safely.

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