Oral rabies vaccine-laden baits, with a tetracycline biomarker, were distributed in Pinellas County (Florida, USA) by helicopter drop and from cars from January to April 1997. A total of 130,320 baits was distributed throughout the county, yielding an average bait density of 185 baits per km2. Bait ingestion was estimated by microscopic detection of tetracycline in tooth and bone samples from 244 raccoons (Procyon lotor), 33 opossums (Didelphis virginianus), 31 feral cats, and two gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) that were trapped during February–April 1997. Active surveillance consisted of 17 trapping sites that were further categorized by six community descriptors. Passive surveillance consisted of animals that were collected as nuisance animals by Pinellas County Animal Services. The proportion of tetracycline positive raccoons was compared between collection techniques, among trapping sites, vegetation communities, and age and sex categories. Since there was no statistically significant difference in the frequency of tetracycline positive raccoons trapped during active surveillance (59%, 110/187) and passive surveillance (53%, 30/57), the data were pooled, resulting in a tetracycline positive frequency of 57% (140/244). The range in the positive tetracycline frequency established for raccoons from the 17 active surveillance sites was 9% (1/11) to 100% (3/3). The tetracycline positive frequency for raccoons ranged from 25% (3/12) at the dumpster sites to 78% (14/18) at the landfills. Juvenile male raccoons (71%, 34/48) were the most commonly marked age and sex class and adult females (42%, 21/50) were the least commonly marked age and sex class. Eighty-five percent (28/33) of the opossums, 3% (1/31) of the feral cats, and 50% (1/2) of the gray foxes were tetracycline positive.
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