USDA Unleashes Air Power Against Raccoon Rabies: A Game-Changer

Every year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture takes to the sky, distributing 9 million baits filled with rabies vaccines intended to be consumed by raccoons (Procyon lotor). On the ground, USDA staff members discreetly place baits in areas where raccoons are likely to be found, such as bushes and restaurant dumpsters.

Kathy Nelson, a wildlife biologist at the USDA, explains, “We stop at any area that appears to be a raccoon habitat.” This proactive approach aims to prevent the spread of raccoon rabies, a virus that has been a concern since it was first detected in Florida in 1947. Over the years, it has spread across the eastern United States.

Biologists have reported success in reducing rabies infections in raccoons through this bait program. However, there is a new challenge on the horizon. In 2021, bats had the highest number of reported rabies cases among wildlife species. The risk of people getting bitten by rabid bats is on the rise, posing a growing public health concern.

Efforts to manage and control rabies continue to evolve as wildlife populations and the patterns of the disease change. The USDA’s bait program is one example of ongoing initiatives to mitigate the spread of rabies and protect both wildlife and human populations from this deadly virus.

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