Date of this Version
Halye, S.B., A.R. Berentsen, and R.M. Engeman. 2019. Taking the bait: species taking oral rabies vaccine baits intended for raccoons. Environmental Science and Pollution Research (2019) 26:9816–9822. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-04200-7
Raccoon rabies in eastern USA is managed by strategically distributing oral rabies vaccine (ORV) baits. The attractiveness, palativity, density, and non-target species bait take affect ORV effectiveness. We examined raccoon and non-target species differences in investigating/removing fish-meal polymer and coated sachet baits applied to simulate two aerial bait distribution densities. Bait densities of 150 baits/km2 and 75 baits/km2 were evaluated, respectively, in zones expected to have high and low raccoon densities. Three primary non-target species visited baits: coyotes, white-tailed deer, and feral swine. The proportion of bait stations visited by raccoons during 1 week observation periods ranged from 50 to 70%, exceeding non-target species visitation. Raccoon take rates for visited baits averaged from 59 to 100%. Raccoon visitation was similar for both bait densities, indicating a proportionally greater quantity of baits were taken in the higher bait density zone. Coyote visitation rates ranged from 16 to 26%, with take rates for visited baits between 46 and 100%. Coyotes were expected to take baits intended for raccoons, because similar baits are applied to vaccinate coyotes. Deer regularly investigated but rarely took baits. Feral swine were in low abundance in the high bait density zone (higher human density) and visited ≤ 1% of baits there but visited baits at frequencies similar to coyotes and deer in the low-density zone and were likely to take encountered baits (63–100%). Non-target bait consumption could be a concern in some circumstances for achieving sufficient raccoon sero-conversion rates.
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