Multiple control methods have been used in North America to manage the spread of rabies caused by the raccoon (Procyon lotor) rabies virus variant (RRVV). Recently, oral vaccination with ONRAB® vaccine baits, which contain an adenovirus rabies glycoprotein recombinant, has been made available as an additional tool for rabies control. Our objectives were to estimate rabies antibody prevalence in wild-caught raccoons and striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis), and identify factors influencing the probability of being antibody positive at the individual level in these species, following oral rabies vaccination (ORV) campaigns in which ONRAB was distributed aerially in 2007–2009 in southern Québec, Canada. Following the aerial distribution of 43–155 ONRAB baits/km2, the annual percentages of antibody-positive raccoons and skunks varied between 35% and 56% and 11% and 17%, respectively. In raccoons, the probability of being antibody positive was positively associated with age and density of ONRAB distributed, and influenced by the number of previous ORV campaigns conducted. Conversely, this probability was negatively associated with estimated abundance of raccoons in the trapping cell and proportion of residential areas near the raccoon capture location. None of the variables examined explained variation in the probability of being antibody positive in skunks. Our results indicate that the ONRAB density applied during ORV campaigns should be adjusted to account for variations in raccoon population density and presence of residential areas to increase the likelihood of creating an effective immunological barrier against RRVV. The high percentage of juvenile raccoons (annual mean =45±3 [SE]%) and skunks (66±2%) captured during post-ORV monitoring suggests that ORV campaigns should be conducted at least annually to account for the recruitment of naïve individuals into the populations. In Québec, the increasing use of ONRAB coincided with the elimination of rabies caused by RRVV. Nonetheless, our results indicate that improvements to this vaccine bait and/or the distribution techniques are required to increase its efficacy, especially in striped skunks.
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Vol. 48 • No. 4