COLUMBUS -- A five-state oral raccoon vaccination baiting program, involving Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Tennessee, begins Aug. 21 in Ohio.
The multistate baiting is coordinated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
The effort will involve distribution of about 4.4 million baits over 21,600 square miles and will take about three weeks to complete. Airplanes and helicopters used for distributing the baits in Ohio and Pennsylvania will be based at Elser Metro Airport in North Lima, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
The baiting program in Pennsylvania concluded the week of Aug. 5 and included Lawrence, Mercer and Crawford counties.
In Ohio, the baiting will cover 3,289 square miles of the state's eastern border, including Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana and Jefferson counties and parts of Carroll, Harrison, Belmont and Monroe counties. The same area was baited last fall.
Reminder to residents
The baits are not harmful to pets, but residents are reminded to leave the baits alone and keep pets confined for at least a week after the baiting period to give raccoons every opportunity to eat the baits. Dogs in particular are attracted to the baits and may eat them.
The baits are 1.25 x 1.25 x 0.75 inches in size, brown and square in shape. The vaccine packet is encased in a hard fishmeal polymer shell. It is recommended that anyone handling baits wear gloves, and if baits are found in areas frequented by pets or children, to toss them into deeper cover.
If a person is exposed to the actual vaccine, a red liquid, officials recommend that they wash any areas of the skin that came into contact with the vaccine thoroughly with soap and water.
The majority of the baits will be distributed from the air, but local health departments and other agency volunteers will handle some ground baiting. The state health department will be assisted in the project by the Ohio National Guard, wildlife biologists from the USDA and staff from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Ohio departments of natural resources and agriculture.