Ontario is set to start dropping more anti-rabies vaccine as part of its new phase in its fight against the virus, which has so far been found in 70 raccoons and skunks.
Chris Davies, head of wildlife research with the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, said they plan to drop the vaccine in early April because the warm weather means the animals will become more mobile.
“We expect to have rabies cases for a while,” he said. “It takes a while to eliminate a disease from a wildlife population.”
The province will be baiting parks, ravines, ditches – “any place that’s wildlife habitat, we’ll be baiting,” Davies said. Dog parks will not likely be baited because the dogs would eat them all, he added.
The baiting will stretch out in a 50-kilometre radius from the location of every individual case. This area reaches to west of Toronto, encompasses Kitchener-Waterloo, down to Longpoint and extends to near the border of the United States.
“The baiting we’re doing out 50-kilometres is a preemptive strike,” he said. “We don’t have any cases out there, but we’re making sure it’s not going to spread.”
Davies said they will also drop vaccines north of Stratford, Ont., where the fox strain of the rabies virus was found in a cow.
After the first case of rabies was discovered in December, the province dropped 219,000 baits in and around Hamilton.
The baiting was halted at the end of December because the animals don’t tend to move around much during the winter.
Since December, 65 cases of raccoon rabies (46 raccoons and 19 skunks) have been identified in Hamilton. Four raccoons from Haldimand-Norfolk and one raccoon from Niagara Region have also tested positive for the virus. A total of 70 animals have tested positive for rabies in the province.
The packets of “bait” are small, roughly the size of a loonie, with attractant on the outside and the vaccine on the inside. The goal is to have skunks and raccoons chew on these packets and release the vaccine to be absorbed by their body.
Davies said if other animals end up eating them, it won’t cause them harm. If a dog were eat a number of these baits, the plastic may give it an upset stomach, but the vaccine won’t harm it, he said.
If anyone comes across any of these packets, Davies said they should leave it alone.