Annual Raccoon Rabies Vaccination Baiting Project

The number of rabid raccoons identified in Allegheny County has declined over the past 20 years. This is largely due to the multi-state efforts of the rabies vaccination program for wild raccoons spearheaded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services (USDA), who ACHD partners with for this massive effort. This year, employees and volunteers of ACHD and the USDA will distribute vaccine-containing baits from July 25 through August 31 across Allegheny County.

The baits will be delivered both by hand from ground vehicles and by aircraft, including helicopters and fixed wing airplanes. Residents might see aircraft moving slowly over the same area multiple times over a short period of time. This could be alarming to residents who are unaware of the program, so we ask our local municipalities to join us in getting the word out about the baiting effort and when it will happen. Hand baiting will occur from August 1 through August 5.

Why are there concerns about raccoons and rabies?

Raccoon rabies is found throughout Pennsylvania. It is a viral infection that can affect the nervous system of any mammal, including humans. The disease is almost always fatal to both people and animals.

Raccoon rabies spreads rapidly and infects large numbers of raccoons. The disease often spreads to other wildlife and pets, making human exposure a real concern. To address this problem, federal, state and county agencies are participating in a combined program, to keep this animal epidemic from spreading further westward by attempting to eliminate or at least greatly reduce raccoon rabies in western Pennsylvania counties.

Since 2001, ACHD has partnered with the USDA Wildlife Services each summer to distribute hundreds of thousands of oral raccoon rabies vaccine baits across Allegheny County by hand. The goal of the USDA’s National Rabies Management Program is to eliminate the raccoon variant of rabies from the United States. In Phase I (2001 to 2015) of the program, the goal was to contain the westward spread of the raccoon variant of rabies. This has successfully been accomplished. Phase II of the project (started in 2016) aims to push the westward boundary of raccoon rabies back eastward, eventually all the way to the coast, effectively eradicating raccoon rabies from the United States.

The oral rabies vaccine bait consists of a blister packet coated in a sweet, waxy coating, or a fishmeal coating, known to attract raccoons. Baits are distributed from vehicles or airplanes. Most of the baits will be consumed about five days after being distributed. People should tell their children to leave the baits alone. Pet owners are asked to keep their dogs and cats inside or on leashes so raccoons can eat the baits.