Outdoors Latest

Research measures disease impact on elusive mountain rabbit

The rare, elusive Appalachian cottontail is found in Western North Carolina. Donated photo The rare, elusive Appalachian cottontail is found in Western North Carolina. Donated photo

Researchers are concerned that the Appalachian cottontail’s population may be impacted by a fast-spreading virus, RHDV2. 

The Appalachian cottontail lives on steep topography in high elevations in Western North Carolina and is rarely seen.

Now, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission has launched a study to determine impacts to the species that may pose a threat to its survival.

Researchers will conduct scat surveys (animal waste) to learn where the species exists in the North Carolina mountains and where it coexists with Eastern cottontails. Eastern cottontails may impact Appalachian cottontails through direct competition, hybridization, and disease transmission.

The project is enhanced through public support. “With much of North Carolina’s land in private ownership, we are encouraged by the engagement of several private landowners in the surveys as well as their concern for the species,” said NCWRC Wildlife Management Division Assistant Chief Sara Schweizer.

Those who visit N.C.’s high western elevations may want to keep a keen eye along the grassy roadsides and the edges of woodland openings for a chance to spot the rare Appalachian cottontail.

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.