Officials Continue to Work to Keep Raccoon Rabies Off Cape

BUZZARDS BAY – Work continues next week to keep raccoon rabies off Cape Cod as oral rabies vaccination baits will be distributed on the mainland.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services and Cape Cod Rabies Task Force will begin distributing 72,000 baits off Cape beginning Monday.

West of the canal ORV bait stations in downtown Plymouth, Wareham and Buzzards Bay will be filled and the rest of Plymouth, a small part of Kingston, Carver, Middleboro, Rochester, Marion, Wareham and the mainland portions of Bourne and Sandwich will be baited by hand.

The first case of raccoon rabies was discovered on Cape Cod in 2004 and quickly spread all the way to Provincetown by 2006.

“Ever since then it has been our goal to push rabies back off the Cape and we are pretty much there,” said Brian Bjorklund, a wildlife biologist with the USDA’s Wildlife Services program and the coordinator of the Cape Cod Rabies program.

There has not been a case of raccoon rabies east of Yarmouth since 2008 and there has not been a positive case on the Cape since 2013.

Baiting is being conducted on west of the Canal for the second straight year. The area had not been baited before last spring since 2003.

Cape Cod is still a focus of the effort as bait stations from the canal through West Yarmouth will begin being filled May 1 with hand baiting on the Cape to begin May 8. A total of 32,000 baits will be distributed on Cape Cod.

Yarmouth Natural Resources Director Karl von Hone said tremendous progress has been made since the disease hit Provincetown.

“Since then we’ve been fighting it back to the canal and we’ve seen some wonderful progress moving it back,” von Hone said. “Incrementally we have pushed the baiting back to the canal.”

Anyone that finds a rabies vaccine or bait package is asked to use a glove or towel to pick it up and toss it into the woods where children and pets can’t get to it. If there is no suitable wooded area to put the bait, it should be disposed of in the trash.

“They are designed for wildlife. They will not harm your pets,” Bjorklund said. “But every dose that is lost to a vaccinated dog is one that could have gone to an unvaccinated raccoon.”

Hands should be washed thoroughly after a bait is handled.

If a pet has eaten or had contact with a bait is should be reported to Bjorklund at 508-476-2956. The reported information is used to let those who distributing the baits know that the baits may have not reached their targeted area.

The fishmeal coating may cause a pet to have an upset stomach.

Anyone that comes into contact with the liquid vaccine inside the bait should wash the area immediately and contact the Department of Public Health at 617-983-6800.

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