14 December 2015

Deadly Rabies Strikes Ontario Racoon Population

Last week the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (MNRF) announced the identification of 3 more rabies positive raccoons in Hamilton and expanded baiting operations in that area. Earlier today a fifth case was reported in this same area. If a person contracts rabies and does not receive treatment, the disease is fatal.

In response to these cases, the MNRF will distribute up to 32,000 more baits in addition to the original 14,000 rabies vaccine baits already placed. The intention is to reach wild raccoons and prevent the further spread of this disease. The vaccine baits are also effective at immunizing skunks and foxes against rabies. Baits are distributed by low-level helicopter (a yellow and black Eurocopter EC130 with registration CFONV) in rural areas and green spaces within urban areas. Baits will be distributed in the remaining areas by hand.

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The khaki-green coloured bait being dropped from the aircraft is made of wax-fat with an attractant flavour (vanilla-sugar). A label with a toll-free 1-888-574-6656 telephone number and “Do not eat” warning are on the exterior of the bait and a plastic package containing the liquid rabies vaccine is embedded in the centre. If found, the bait should not be touched, but left for raccoons, skunks and foxes to consume. 

MNRF is committed to the research, control and eradication of rabies in Ontario to protect the health and safety of the public, their pets and the wildlife of the province. Ontario’s programs have maintained southern Ontario free of fox strain rabies and free of raccoon strain rabies for a decade. The rabies control program is a joint effort that receives important input from regional health units, municipalities, wildlife rehabilitators, licensed trappers, wildlife control agents and aboriginal communities. All are key to the continued success of Ontario’s world-renowned rabies control program.

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