According to a release by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the province is actively responding to the 76 cases of confirmed raccoon strain and fox strain rabies in parts of southwestern Ontario by resuming rabies vaccination bait drops in those areas beginning today. The Stratford area is one of the locations highlighted as being targeted for bait drops.
The flavoured baits, about the size of a Loonie, immunize most skunks, foxes and raccoons that eat them. They are small and khaki green in appearance, with a toll-free rabies hotline number stamped on them. The MNR has asked that, if residents see the baits, they do not disturb them.
Exposure to the bait is not harmful to people or pets. However, if a person or a pet comes in contact with the vaccine in the bait, contacting a doctor or veterinarian as a precaution is recommended.
Throughout the month, rabies vaccine baiting will be taking place in the Golden Horseshoe as well as around Stratford. The baiting will occur by helicopter beginning today, by hand starting Monday, and by twin otter plane for the next two weeks.
Hand baiting is reportedly expected to continue into the summer months, focusing on urban areas where aircraft operations are restricted. Baiting plans will be revised as needed, based on weather and the potential discovery of additional rabies locations.
Annual baiting will again take place in the Golden Horseshoe, Stratford, Niagara and St. Lawrence areas in late August or early September.
The MNR is responsible for wildlife rabies research and management programs in Ontario. This includes distribution of vaccine baits, a program that the release describes as “one of the most successful rabies control programs in North America.”
The Ministry is working with municipal public health services, local animal control services, First Nations, trappers, and animal rehabilitators to capture and test raccoons and other wildlife that are “behaving strangely in key areas.”
They remind the public that they should not trap, transport, feed, or attempt to nurse back to health, wildlife. They also encourage people to have their pets “vaccinated according to instructions from your veterinarian.” Children should be reminded to stay away from wild or stray animals. Any animals spotted behaving “strangely” should be reported to a local animal control officer.
“If you think you, or any member of your family has been in contact with a rabid animal, immediately contact your local health unit, doctor, or local emergency department,” reads the release. “If a domestic animal has been exposed to an animal that may have rabies, call your veterinarian or the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Agriculture Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300.”