A series of experiments are described on the acceptance, by red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and other species, of two types of vaccine-baits intended to deliver liquid rabies vaccine. The baits consisted of a cube of sponge coated in a mixture of tallow and wax, or a plastic blister-pack embedded in tallow. All baits contained tetracycline as a biological marking agent: examination of thin sections of carnivore canines under an ultraviolet microscope revealed a fluorescent line of tetracycline if an individual had eaten baits. Baits were dropped from fixed-wing aircraft flying about 100 m above ground at approximately 130 km/h. Flight lines followed the edges of woodlots midway between parallel roads. Baits were dropped at one/sec, resulting in one bait/36 m on the ground, or 17 to 25 baits per km2. Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) removed many baits, but did not appear to lower the percent of the fox population which took bait. Dropping baits only into corn and woodland to conceal baits, to reduce depredation by crows, reduced acceptance by foxes. Acceptance by foxes ranged between 37 and 68%. Meat added as an attractant did not raise acceptance. Presence, absence, color and perforations of plastic bags did not alter bait acceptance. Dispersal by juvenile foxes probably lowered the estimates of bait acceptance. It took 7 to 17 days for 80% (n = 330) of foxes to eat their first bait. The rapidity with which foxes picked up their first bait appeared more affected by unknown characteristics of years or study areas than by experimental variables. Skunks (Mephitis mephitis) and raccoons (Procyon lotor) also ate these baits, but acceptance was lower. Small mammals contacted baits, but rarely contacted the vaccine, which had the potential for vaccine-induced rabies in some species. Aerial distribution of baits was more cost-effective than ground distribution as practiced in Europe. This system has potential for field control of rabies, although higher acceptance will be desirable.
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