Texas state health officials are trying to slow the spread of rabies in the wild skunk population. A pilot program from last year is being tried for a second season.
Helicopters will be dropping vaccine baits in two areas in Fort Bend County and one in Waller County. The vaccine will be mixed with fish meal so the skunks will want to eat it. Department of State Health Services spokesman Chris Van Deusen says about 100,000 of the baits will be left in rural areas and wildlife habitats.
Why were the locations chosen?
“There is skunk rabies activity in the area,” Van Deusen explains, “and, the other part of it is, the local authorities were interested in being a part of this trial.”
When the skunks eat the vaccine, the state agency hopes it will create a rabies-free zone and slow the spread of the disease. Scientists will check back in 4-to-6 weeks to see if the program has had an impact.
“If everything works according to plan, skunks and perhaps other animals as well, will eat these vaccine baits, get a dose of the vaccine, and then become immune to rabies,” he says. “And so, they'll become a barrier to rabies.”
The vaccine won’t hurt domestic animals, but they also won’t replace the legally – required rabies vaccine for dogs and cats.