Rabies is a widespread zoonotic disease that has reached epizootic proportions in gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) in central Texas. Because each species of carnivore has different food preferences and foraging strategies, it is essential that the efficacy of a bait delivery program be examined for gray foxes prior to an oral vaccination program being attempted. Field trials were conducted to determine bait preferences of free-ranging gray foxes to selected baits and odor attractants. Baits consisted of polymer cubes made of either dog food meal or fish meal, and a wax-lard cake that was enhanced with marshmallow flavoring. Attractants added to baits exuded sulfurous, fatty, cheesy, or sweet odors and flavors. During 3,589 operable bait station nights, gray fox visitation and bait uptake rates were 9.2% and 8.3%, respectively. Gray foxes exhibited no preference in bait uptake rates between bait and odor attractant combinations. Gray foxes exhibited no difference in cumulative bait uptake rates between onroad and offroad sites; however, the uptake rate by raccoons was significantly greater for baits placed on roads than for baits randomly placed. Raccoons were the major non-target species competing for baits, being attributed with 73% of the total uptake. Visitation and bait uptake rates by raccoons significantly increased after a 7-day lethal removal of raccoons (n = 37) from the study area. Random distribution of baits is recommended; it reduced bait uptake by non-target species without adversely affecting uptake by gray foxes.
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Vol. 36 • No. 4