This week nearly half a million pieces of bait about the size of a quarter will be dropped from low-flying airplanes in more than 100 communities in the northern half of Vermont.
The bait drop is part of government efforts to reduce the incidence of rabies in wild animals in the state. So far this year, officials say 23 animals have tested positive for rabies, 14 of which were raccoons.
Fred Pogmore, a wildlife biologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says raccoons, skunks and foxes are attracted to the sweet-smelling baits and become vaccinated against rabies when they eat them.
The health department released a list of the communities where bait will be dropped.
Pogmore says this is the best time of year for the bait drop.
"The young of the year are out moving around so that you get the mature animals plus … the offspring from this year are foraging,” he said, “so hopefully you’ll get all the animals that are out there to eat a bait.”
Pogmore says the baits will be distributed by hand, not aircraft, in the residential neighborhoods that are within the target area.
Officials say anyone who suspects they’ve encountered an animal with rabies should avoid the animal and call the rabies hotline at 1-800-472-2437.