During 1999–2003, 127 cases of raccoon variant rabies were reported in raccoons (Procyon lotor) and striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) in Ontario, Canada. Raccoons accounted for 98% (125/127) of the reported cases with behaviors/conditions including aggression, fighting with dogs, ataxia, vocalizations, appearance of being sick, and the presence of porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) quills. Seventy-eight percent of the rabid raccoons were adults. Juveniles were underrepresented (22%) compared with the adult/juvenile ratios found in nonrabid Ontario raccoon populations. Of the known aged raccoons, 83% were ≤3 yr of age, and 22% of the rabid adult female raccoons had evidence of having had a litter during the year in which they were found to be rabid. The majority of rabid raccoons were reported during the fall, winter, and spring, suggesting a relationship between raccoon behavioral activities such as denning and breeding and the timing of rabies outbreaks. Multiple cases of raccoon rabies occurred at several barns, suggesting that those structures serve as focal points of rabies transmission as a result of denning activities. Movements of five rabid raccoons (range 1,564–4,143 m) were not different from movements of nonrabid raccoons in Ontario. Sixty-six percent of the rabid animals were submitted by government staff, stressing the importance of those agencies in rabies control and surveillance operations. Increased knowledge of the behaviors of rabid raccoons should assist in the development of management strategies for rabies.
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Vol. 42 • No. 3