Rabies is enzootic in raccoons (Procyon lotor) in the eastern United States. Oral vaccination of free-ranging raccoons against rabies has the potential to control the disease in a principal reservoir and reduce the risk of rabies exposure among domestic animals and humans. Free-ranging animal contact with baits containing a vaccinia virus recombinant vaccine expressing the rabies glycoprotein gene (V-RG) was monitored in Pinellas County (Florida, USA) from February through May 1997. Bait contact was assessed with 423 tracking plate nights; conducted in four land use zones: single residential, multiple residential, industrial-commercial, and undeveloped. The undeveloped land use zone was further described by six vegetation communities: mangrove swamp, red maple swamp, beach dune, pine forest, mixed oak hammock, and cabbage palm hammock. Seven animal taxa contacted the baited tracking plates across the four land use zones: raccoons, opossums (Didelphis virginiana), cats (Felis catus), dogs (Canis familiaris), rabbits (Sylvilagus sp.), unidentified rodents, and birds. A total of 252/413 (61%) of the baits was contacted by animals; 95 (38%) of these were specifically by the raccoon, the target species. Overall bait contact by all animals was significantly different among the four land use zones, being highest in the undeveloped zone (82%) and lowest in the industrial-commercial zone (34%). Bait contact by raccoons also was significantly different among the undeveloped and pooled urban zones. Among the six vegetation communities, bait contact by all animals was significantly different ranging from 95% in the mangrove to 50% in the cabbage palm hammock. Among the four vegetation communities tested, bait contact by raccoons also was significantly different.
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