The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has been informed that the United States Department of Agriculture will begin distributing an oral rabies vaccine for wild raccoons in selected areas in the southeast, including 15 counties in East Tennessee.
The goal of the program is to stop the spread of the raccoon variant rabies in Tennessee. The oral rabies vaccine is placed inside a fishmeal block or coated with fishmeal. The block and/or the coating is made with fishmeal and oil that is known to attract raccoons.
The vaccine will be distributed by ground crews and from fixed wing aircraft. Raccoons that eat the vaccine-laced bait will become immune to rabies.
Depending on the weather, the project is scheduled to begin on Oct. 2 and conclude in 16 days. The target area will include portions of Bradley, Hamilton, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Polk, Carter, Cocke, Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington counties.
The USDA is offering the following tips:
- Do not attempt removal of the ORV bait from your pet’s mouth, as you could be bitten. Eating these baits will not harm your pet.
- Confine your pet and look for other baits in the area. These baits should be removed from where your pet could eat them.
- Instruct children to leave the baits alone.
- Wear gloves or use a towel when you pick up the bait. Although there is no harm in touching undamaged bait, they have a strong fishmeal smell. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water if there is any chance that the vaccine sachet has been ruptured.
- There is a warning label placed on each bait advising people not to touch the bait. The warning also contains the rabies information-line telephone number.