Annual distribution aims to reduce disease among racoons in Northern and Western Maine
AUGUSTA — In cooperation with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), officials from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services will begin their annual raccoon rabies vaccine baiting program this week in northern and western Maine. Wildlife Services will distribute approximately 365,000 oral rabies vaccine (ORV) baits across northeastern Maine from August 5 through August 10, in portions of Aroostook, Penobscot, and Piscataquis counties.Wildlife Services also will distribute more than 50,000 ORV baits in northern Franklin County during the same timeframe in response to a rabid raccoon detected near the Quebec border in June.
Crews will spread the baits by air and ground over each distribution area. This event is part of ongoing rabies control efforts to reduce the spread of raccoon rabies in Maine. The ORV baits come in two forms. The bait used in the northeastern area is a fishmeal-coated cube or sachet about one to two inches in size. The bait used in Franklin County is a blister pack with a sweet, waxy coating. Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the bait but should not touch or move them. Studies show that both vaccine baits are safe in many species of animals, including domestic dogs and cats. While dogs may get an upset stomach if they eat several bait packs, there are no known long-term health risks. If a person has skin contact with the bait, rinse the area affected with warm water and soap.
The northeastern distribution area includes Easton, Houlton, Linneus, Mars Hill, Medway, Millinocket, Patten, Stacyville, T3 R1 NBPP, T7 R3 NBPP, and Weston. The northwestern distribution area includes the communities of Eustis, Stratton, Route 27 to the border with Quebec, and portions of the Penobscot Nation Trust Lands. Wildlife Services will spread the baits by airplanes in rural, wooded areas and by vehicle in the more populated areas of Houlton, Eustis, and Stratton.
Rabies is a virus that infects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. It spreads mainly through a bite from an infected animal. Once symptoms develop, rabies is almost always fatal. Timely post-exposure treatment can prevent disease in people. Approximately 90 percent of reported animal rabies cases in the U.S. occur in wildlife. As of August 1, 2023, 43 animals tested positive for rabies this year in nine counties. These animals include bats, raccoons, skunks, woodchucks, grey foxes, a cat, and a goat.
To help protect yourself and your pet against rabies:
- Keep your pets’ rabies vaccination up to date.
- Feed pets indoors.
- Keep garbage cans or other sources of food tightly secured.
- Do not feed, touch, or adopt wild animals. Be cautious of stray dogs and cats.
- Do not move wildlife. This can spread rabies into new areas.
- Wash bite or scratch wounds with soap and water for 10 to 15 minutes.
Who to contact:
- If an animal bites or scratches you, contact your health care provider.
- If an animal bites or scratches your pet, contact your veterinarian.
- To report a dead or suspicious-acting animal in northern Maine, contact Wildlife Services.
- Maine CDC is also available to answer questions.
Rabies virus poses a threat to human and animal health. Since 2003, Wildlife Services has worked to eliminate raccoon rabies from northern Maine. Wildlife Services also collaborates with Canadian officials in New Brunswick and Quebec to reduce the presence of rabies across Maine and Canada. As part of the Wildlife Services’ National Rabies Management Program, the ORV distribution program in Maine is part of a larger effort to prevent the westward spread of raccoon rabies. This effort creates a barrier along the Appalachian Mountains from the Canadian border to Alabama.
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