(WALLER, TX) – Rabies vaccine packets were dropped from the skies over rural Fort Bend and Waller counties for the second day in a row on Tuesday. The Texas Department of State Health Services is involved in a pilot program to see if rabies prevention programs they’ve used for other animals will work on skunks. On Tuesday they were using the Houston Executive Airport in Waller County as a base of operations.
Doctor Laura Robinson of the state health department was on hand to oversee the project. “Carnivores such as coyotes and foxes will pick up these bates and eat them and in the process become vaccinated,” Robinson said.
The bait packages are about the size of a ketchup packet and are not harmful to pets. In the off-chance that humans come in contact with a ruptured packet there is a number you can call that is listed on the package. State Health Departmet workers will evaluate your risk.
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It’s unlikely the liquid vaccine inside the packet would cause any major problems according to Robinson. If the package is not ruptured she says there is no danger at all, except that it smells like fish.
“Their coated in a fish oil and fish meal crumbles,” she said. The coating attracts the skunks to eat them.
A similar program was carried out in Fort Bend County in 2012. This year the state is adding an additional zone between Highway 290 and Interstate 10 in Waller County.
The program started in 1995 and has eliminated the canine strain of rabies and virtually eliminated the gray fox strain of rabies in Texas according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“There have been different studies using different bates, different types of attractants, so we are hoping that this will be as effective in skunks as it has been in other species,” Robinson said.
Rabies in humans and animals is almost always fatal. State law requires people to vaccinate their pets for rabies.