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LOCKPORT – More than 200,000 raccoon baits containing rabies vaccine will be distributed in Niagara and Erie counties, starting Tuesday.

James J. Devald, Niagara County environmental health director, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be in charge of the effort, beginning with drops of the baits from low-flying planes.

Helicopters also will be used in some areas until the annual program ends Sept. 4. Vaccine-laced baits will be spread by hand in Niagara Falls and nearby areas, Devald said.

The baits are coated in a plastic blister pack. The biscuit is made of vegetable fat and oil, icing sugar, vanilla flavor and dark green food coloring. Its vaccine-laden center contains two antibiotics.

Anyone who finds a bait should leave it alone, said Daniel J. Stapleton, Niagara County public health director.

A toll-free number, (888) 574-6656, is printed on the bait packets. The number should be called in case of any exposure to the bait on the part of humans or pets, Stapleton said.

An information sheet from Artemis Technologies, the Canadian company that produces the baits, said the vaccine cannot cause rabies, but exposure to mucous membranes could lead to adenovirus conjunctivitis, marked by cold-like symptoms.

Niagara County offers free rabies vaccination clinics five times a year, with the next one scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Town of Lockport highway garage behind Town Hall, Dysinger and Old Beattie roads.

The county also is planning an animal microchipping clinic from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Niagara Pet Food Pantry, 8600 Buffalo Ave., Niagara Falls.

A Lewiston veterinarian, Kristen Ruest, will insert microchips beneath the neck skin of dogs and cats. The county has a chip reader that can be used to scan the animal and identify the owner of a stray animal. However, rabies shots must be up to date before the county Health Department will agree to insert the microchip, said Elaine Roman, director of public health planning and emergency preparedness.

Advance appointments for microchipping are available by calling 439-7439 or 439-7431.

The county’s last rabies immunization clinic of this year is scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 7 in the North Tonawanda Public Works garage, 758 Erie Ave.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com