For Immediate Release: August 7, 2006
Media Contact: Communication Office
BURLINGTON – The pitter patter of little fishmeal cakes landing from the sky will be heard in Vermont on Aug. 22 as the state launches its 10th annual Rabies Bait Drop.
The bait will be dropped from a twin engine, yellow-colored propeller plane flying at an altitude of 500 feet. The planes will fly uniform grid lines 0.3 miles apart and drop more than 215,000 fishmeal cakes at a rate of 8 baits per second. Oral vaccine is sealed in a wax casing inside the cakes. As wildlife detect and then devour the bait - the animals are inoculated.
In 2006, there have been 38 confirmed cases of rabies, mostly in raccoons and skunks.
“Historically, the drop has kept down the number of cases in Northern Vermont,” said Dr. Robert Johnson, state veterinarian for the Vermont Department of Health. “Rabies is one of the oldest recorded diseases and continues to be a management challenge for public health officials. Raccoon rabies first entered Vermont in 1994 and has been confirmed since that time in all 14 counties in the state.”
The bait drop is a cooperative effort. The planes and pilots are from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in Canada, the United States Department of Agriculture supplies staff and equipment, and the flights originate from Newport, Vermont.
The Vermont bait drop covers more than 2,700 square miles and will be expanded south this year to include communities in Washington and Chittenden County. The total square mileage of the bait drop is four times larger than the first drop in 1997 (632 square miles).
Anyone who finds the bait should leave it untouched, unless it is discovered on a lawn or driveway where it is unlikely to attract a raccoon. Remove the bait with a glove and wash your hands with soap and water.
The bait cannot cause rabies if it is touched or eaten and is not harmful to children or pets, but it does have an objectionable smell if it gets on your skin.
No human cases of rabies have been reported in Vermont, and nationally only one or two cases are reported each year.
“Rabies vaccine has helped protect domestic animals as well as people,” said Dr. Johnson.
Since 1992, the USDA has offered a toll-free Rabies Hotline in Vermont. Keep a safe distance from wild animals and, if bitten, call 1-800-472-2437.