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Raccoon Rabies Prevention Program A Success On LI

Toby Talbot
A captured raccoon peers through the bars of a trap, as part of a federal program to stop rabies from crossing the border into Canada.

New York State has spent $2.6 million trying to eliminate rabies in raccoons on Long Island, and with only one reported case last year, claims the state’s oral vaccination program is a success.

Long Island’s first report of a rabid raccoon was in 2004. By 2007, there were nearly 100.

“New York is an example of, we were able to treat wildlife to eliminate a disease that impacts humans. You rarely ever see that. That is huge,” says Dr. Stephanie Schwiff with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Schwiff says New York’s oral vaccination program saved the state almost $27 million by helping Long Islanders avoid expensive rabies treatment and animal testing costs.

“So that money, when someone buys vaccines and someone buys human rabies hemoglobin, that money goes out of those counties and out of Long Island.”

Under the plan, bait laced with the vaccine was distributed by helicopter to known habitats. 

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.