Rabies vaccine in bait dropped in Grimsby and other Niagara communities

rabies vaccine bait What the rabies vaccine bait looks like. Photo credit: Ontario Minstry of Natural Resources

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has been hand-dropping rabies vaccines in bait in Grimsby after a case of rabies was found in a raccoon in June.

The effort is part of a wider campaign to drop the bait across the Niagara Region via helicopter in the next few weeks. Vaccine baiting is used to immunize wildlife that is prone to catching rabies, particularly raccoons, skunks, and foxes.

The bait drops begin in mid-September. It is possible that West Niagara residents, in Grimsby, Lincoln, West Lincoln, and Pelham and surrounding areas, may come across baits over the next few weeks.

Below is the important information you need to know about these bait drops.

What is vaccine baiting and how does it work?

Vaccine baiting involves administering the rabies vaccine ONRAB to wildlife. In Ontario, the vaccine is ina small, army-green coloured packet. On the back of the packet, there is a “do-not-eat” warning label and toll-free number.

The liquid vaccine is surrounded by a coating made of ingredients such as icing sugar, designed to entice raccoons, skunks and foxes into eating it. Once eaten, the vaccine is absorbed into the lining of the mouth and animals are immunized within two weeks of consumption.

In Ontario, vaccine baiting typically occurs in three ways – bait drops via aircraft (like helicopters), hand baiting, or trap-vaccinate-release.

Bait drops involve vaccine packets being dropped in large quantities into urban areas and green spaces where rabies-susceptible animals are known to frequent. Hand baiting involves placing vaccine packets in areas of concern by hand. The trap-vaccinate-release technique involves catching wildlife in areas of concern, administering the vaccine, and then releasing the animal back into the wild.

Hand-baiting and trap-vaccinate-release usually occur in areas where a rabies case has been confirmed, as animals in the area are more likely to have come in contact with the infected animal. This took place in Grimsby earlier this summer after the confirmed raccoon case. It is an added safety precaution to protect pets, livestock, and other wildlife around the area where the infected animal was found.

Is it dangerous for pets or livestock?

Although it is unlikely that residents or their pets or livestock will come in contact with the vaccine baits, it is important to take the necessary precautions if they are found or if a pet consumes them.  

Generally speaking, the bait is not harmful to pets or livestock if eaten. Animals may get an upset stomach. However, it is recommended that if a pet consumes a packet, then call your veterinarian as a precaution, especially if more than one packet is eaten.

If a bait packet is found by you or your animals, it should not be opened. Wear gloves or place a plastic bag over your hand, pick up the bait, and move it to an area where wildlife is likely to find it (like a wooded area).

It is also important to note that this bait will not protect your livestock or pets from rabies if consumed.

When and where are these baits dropped?

Bait drops typically occur in the summer and fall in areas where rabies is common. These places include parks, ravines, forests, rural agricultural areas and other green spaces.

The bait drops this year began in July and continue through mid-September. It is focused in areas across Southern Ontario mainly, but Eastern Ontario, around the St. Lawrence River, also received drops around mid-August. Bait drops are occurring via helicopter across the Niagara Peninsula in mid-September.

A more detailed map of the summer/fall baiting areas can be found here.

What is rabies?

Rabies is a virus spread by an affected mammal to another mammal from saliva. It is often transmitted from bites that break the skin, but it can also be transmitted if the saliva of an infected mammal gets into an open wound or into the mouth, nose or eyes.

If infected, symptoms often appear in two forms: dumb form or furious form. The dumb form may involve animals losing their fear of humans, becoming depressed or withdrawn, and becoming partially paralyzed. The furious form may involve animals becoming excited or aggressive, gnawing or attacking themselves and others, and becoming more agitated or depressed.

Learn more rabies and the baiting program on the Ontario website: https://www.ontario.ca/page/rabies-wildlife#section-4.

If you or one of your animals has been bitten by a wild animal, contact your local health unit, veterinarian, or emergency services as soon as possible. If you suspect a wild animal may have contracted rabies, please contact your local animal control services.

You can also report rabies-related concerns or ask rabies-related inquiries to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) Rabies Information Line at 1-888-574-6656 or email at [email protected]. If there is an emergency because bait has been consumed, please call your veterinarian or doctor for emergency help.  

Learn More:

Ontario rabies bating program