USDA National Wildlife Research Center Symposia


Date of this Version

August 2000


Since the late 1980s, results of oral vaccination trials in several states have provided growing evidence that this vaccination method may be effective for controlling the spread of rabies in raccoons (Procyon lotor). This study examines the economic feasibility of using oral vaccination on a larger scale than previous trials. We analyze the benefits and costs associated with a hypothetical barrier that would stretch from Lake Erie to the Gulf of Mexico, combining natural geographic features provided by the Appalachian Mountains with oral vaccination zones. The goal of this barrier would be to prevent the raccoon rabies variant from moving west into broader geographic regions of the United States. The costs of establishing and maintaining this hypothetical barrier are compared to the avoided costs of not having to live with raccoon rabies west of its current distribution. The westward advance of raccoon rabies, if it is not contained, is projected using simple models based on constant rates of spread. Our results show that preventing the westward movement of raccoon rabies by combining an oral vaccination program with natural barriers may be economically feasible. Discounted costs of establishing and maintaining the barrier are estimated to total between US$58 million and US$148 million. Net benefits of program implementation range between US$48 million and US$496 million for a variety of models, including ones that exclude forgone pet vaccination expenditures. The analysis also provides a framework for developing future models to explore the benefits and costs of eliminating raccoon rabies from currently affected areas.