Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources will start dropping small packages of rabies vaccine over a rural area north of Stratford beginning in early April.

The target area, which is 20 km in diameter, circles a farm in Perth County where a calf tested positive for the Arctic fox strain of rabies late last year. 

Since January, ministry staff have been testing animals they find up to 50 km away from the affected farm.

No additional rabies cases have been found in the area according to Chris Davies, manager of wildlife research and monitoring, but the ministry will still drop vaccine packages – called baits – in the area as a precaution.

mnr rabies map

Staff with the Ministry of Natural Resources have tested animals found in the grey surveillance zone for the Arctic fox and/or raccoon strain of rabies. (OMNRF)

"The baits are about four by two centimetres long," he said. "They're a khaki green in colour and they're covered with a waxy coating that smells like sweet vanilla. That's the attraction on the outside that skunks and raccoons seem to like."

Davies said approximately 100 baits would be dropped for every square kilometre inside the target area. 

"The animal finds the bait, they pick it up, they bite it," he said.

The inside of the baits are liquid and when the animal bites it, the vaccine is released.

"It makes contact with the back of the mouth or the top of the throat, where it is absorbed and the animal is vaccinated against rabies," Davies said.

The ministry also plans to drop baits throughout Waterloo Region in the summer. However, unlike those dropped north of Stratford, the packages dropped over Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge will contain a vaccine for the raccoon strain of rabies. 

Raccoon

The Ministry of Natural Resources will also begin dropping baits in Waterloo region this summer, to combat the raccoon strain of rabies. (CBC)

Davies said the ministry has confirmed more than 60 cases of rabies in the Hamilton area, and that number continues to grow. 

In December, baits were dropped over an area that stretched from Burlington in the north to Lake Erie in the south. 

"We will be expanding that baited area out over the course of the summer to a maximum of 50 km from all cases that we detect," Davies said, adding the expanded area would include towns and cities in Waterloo region.

He said the ministry's plan is to contain the cases of raccoon rabies and hopefully eliminate the disease from the region in a couple of years.