Montreal

Low-flying planes drop rabies vaccine to Quebec raccoons

Planes flying over the Montérégie and Eastern Townships are dropping hundreds of thousands of rabies vaccine packets in an effort to keep Quebec rabies-free.

Hundreds of thousands of sweet-smelling treats dropped this week

Healthy treats: Biologists hopes raccoons eat the rabies vaccine packets, but say skunks and foxes would also be vaccinated if they eat them. (Bruce Morrison)

Planes flying over the Montérégie and Eastern Townships are dropping hundreds of thousands of rabies vaccine packets in an effort to keep Quebec rabies-free.

In total, the Ministry of Forestry, Wildlife and Parks is distributing 600,000 of the baits. The planes are flying over densely wooded areas. In towns, marshes, and abandoned barns, ministry staff will distribute the bait by hand.

The baits, which look like ravioli or ketchup packets, smell sweet to raccoons.

"They're like little treats for the raccoons," said Marianne Gagnier, the biologist in charge of the operation.

Gagnier is hoping other wildlife, like skunks and foxes, will also eat the baits. She said they're safe for both animal and human consumption, but that people shouldn't eat them.

The Quebec ministry of forests, wildlife and parks is trying to vaccinate raccoons for rabies by dropping tasty treats containing medicine from low-flying planes. 0:37

Keeping Quebec rabies-free

A recent outbreak of rabies in northern New York State has the ministry concerned the fatal disease, which is easily transmitted by all mammals, will jump over the Canadian border.

The air drop, which has become an annual event since 2006, has been mostly successful in stopping rabies from crossing into the province's borders.

The last reported case of rabies in Quebec was in 2009.

The baits look like ravioli or ketchup packets and smell sweet to raccoons. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

With files from Claudia Kedney-Bolduc