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Will they take the bait? A federal wildlife program will drop rabies vaccines from the sky to try to lure raccoons.

A close up of a juvenile raccoon in Reelfoot Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Union City, TN.
Joshua J. Cotten
A close up of a juvenile raccoon in Reelfoot Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Union City, TN.

Starting in October, a federal wildlife agency will use bait to lure North Carolina raccoons to take a rabies vaccine.

The oral vaccine — known by its brand name Ravoral — will be coated in fishmeal in hopes raccoons mistake it for a tasty treat.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will distribute more than one million doses from northern Alabama to southwest Virginia. Most will be dropped from planes or helicopters.

"A raccoon ORV (oral rabies vaccination) program in the eastern United States has created a barrier against the westward spread of raccoon rabies into native raccoon populations beyond the Appalachian Mountains and across the western United States," the agency said, adding that Ravoral is safe for most animals who ingest it, including dogs.

The annual vaccination drive comes amid an uptick in reported rabies cases in North Carolina. Guilford County has confirmed 15 cases this year, while Randolph County officials say rabid foxes attacked three peoplein Archdale in July.

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.
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