The Ministry of Natural Resources will be using a Twin Otter aircraft to air-drop rabies vaccine packets throughout Eastern Ontario during the month of August, including the St. Lawrence area in Frontenac and Leeds & Grenville County.
Rabies is a virus that can spread from an infected mammal to any other mammal, including humans, pets, livestock and wildlife.
The virus is found in the saliva of infected mammals and can be spread by bites that break the skin; getting saliva from an infected animal in an open cut, sore, or other wound; or getting saliva from an infected animal in the mouth, nose, or eyes.
If wildlife get infected with rabies, they will typically die a few days after signs of the disease appear. Though it can take days to many months for the signs of rabies to appear, the virus can still be transmitted through saliva up to 10 days before signs appear.
Any warm-blooded mammal can contract rabies. If a human contracts rabies and does not receive treatment, the disease is fatal.
Ontario controls rabies in wildlife by dropping baits that contain vaccine in urban, forested and rural agricultural areas. Baits are dropped for foxes, raccoons and skunks to eat in areas where rabies has been detected in wildlife in the current or previous year.
The bait is a small packet filled with the rabies vaccine that is absorbed through the lining of the mouth. Animals are immunized against rabies about 2 weeks after they either chew or swallow the rabies vaccine bait.
The bait formula coats the blister pack containing the vaccine. This formula consists of vegetable based fats, was, icing sugar, vegetable oil, artificial marshmallow flavour and dark-green food grade fat-soluble dye.
If residents find a bait packet in an area where it shouldn’t be (e.g. a private yard), residents are asked to not open it, and, after placing a plastic bag over your hand to keep your scent off the bait, move it to an area where wildlife may find it (e.g. a forested area).
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, wildlife vaccine baits are not meant for humans, livestock or pets and won’t protect you or your animals from rabies.
The khaki-green coloured bait is made of wax-fat with an attractant flavour (vanilla-sugar). A label with a toll-free telephone number (1-888-574-6656) and the message “Do not eat” is located 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.
Ontario’s rabies vaccine baits have been tested to ensure they are safe for wildlife, people and pets. However, eating a vaccine bait does not replace the regular rabies vaccination provided by a veterinarian for your pet. If your pet has eaten a bait and you are concerned, contact your vet as a precaution.
“Ontario’s rabies control program is a joint effort between provincial ministries, federal agencies, regional health units, municipalities, wildlife rehabilitators, licensed trappers, wildlife control agents and Indigenous communities”, all of whom are “key to the continued success of Ontario’s rabies control program,” says the Ministry of Natural Resources.