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August 8, 2019 
CONTACT: Kara Kane 
Email: kara.kane@erie.gov  
Phone: (716) 858-4941


August bait program aims to reduce incidence of rabies in local wildlife population

ERIE COUNTY, NY— The Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) will coordinate a wildlife vaccination program for rabies using airdrops to deliver vaccinated bait from August 20 until August 29. This program is a team effort for the County, Cornell University’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center, the New York State Department of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services. This program will deliver an estimated 407,100 rabies vaccine baits in Erie and Niagara County this month.

Five fixed-wing aircraft will distribute bait to rural areas, weather permitting, between August 20 and August 23. Helicopters are used to distribute bait in suburban towns and villages and in open areas of the city of Buffalo from August 24-29. This schedule will depend on the weather. In densely populated urban areas, ECDOH Division of Environmental Health Rabies Disease and Vector Control staff will distribute baits by hand between August 24 and 28.

“When you see aircraft circling your neighborhood, or see our Vector Control program staff leaving bait packets, know that they are part of a county-wide effort to protect against rabies, which is a fatal but preventable disease,” said Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “This bait delivers the rabies vaccine to raccoons, foxes and skunks in their natural habitat. In New York State, these animals, along with bats, are presumed to carry the rabies virus.”

 Rabies vaccine bait with ruler guides for size

Image of bait packet with rulers to indicate size; provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“Using aircraft to reach rural and suburban areas of the county, and ground distribution within the city of Buffalo, is part of our aggressive and effective program to vaccinate wildlife, especially raccoons, against rabies,” said Senior Public Health Sanitarian Peter Tripi. “We want to reduce the risk that humans and domestic pets will come into contact with a rabid wild animal.”

Do NOT disturb baits. Most baits are eaten within four days; almost all baits will be gone within a week. If baits are not found and eaten, they will harmlessly dissolve and exposed vaccine will become inactivated. If you must move bait, wear gloves or use a plastic bag or paper towel to pick it up. Place any damaged baits in the trash; throw intact baits into a wooded area or other raccoon/wildlife habitat.

Residents should WASH HANDS IMMEDIATELY if they come into direct contact with the vaccine or bait, then call the New York State Department of Health Rabies Information Line at 1-888-574-6656. “We have reports of individuals who leave food out for feral cats, birds and squirrels in their neighborhoods,” continued Tripi. “By doing so, they are attracting wild animals that can increase the likelihood of an encounter with humans and pets.” Erie County residents who feed a feral cat are considered to be its owner, and are responsible for that cat’s care and rabies vaccination. Rabies vaccinations are required by law for all dogs, indoor and outdoor cats, and ferrets ages three months and older. Free rabies vaccination clinics are scheduled on September 11 at ECC South, September 18 at ECC North and September 25 at the Cheektowaga Highway Garage.

Additional recommendations include:

  • Supervise children’s outdoor activities during bait distribution and for one week afterward.
  • Confine dogs and cats indoors and observe leash laws during the bait distribution interval and for one week afterward.
  • This will increase the probability of raccoon vaccination and decrease the chance of pets finding the baits.
  • Baits and vaccines are not harmful to domestic animals. However, an animal may vomit if it consumes several baits.
  • Residents should not risk being bitten while trying to remove bait from your pet’s mouth.
Map of Rabies Vaccine Bait distribution


Erie County Wildlife Oral Rabies Vaccination Program

Erie County, Free Rabies Vaccination Clinic Schedule

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rabies