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Niagara County's fifth annual airdrop of raccoon bait laced with rabies vaccine went off without a hitch Monday, county Environmental Health Director James J. Devald said.

The county spent $20,000 toward the $150,000 project. The rest of the money came from Cornell University, the state, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The latter provided two small planes and pilots for the six-hour effort.

Devald said the non-urban areas of the county were covered with 120,000 of the matchbox-sized bait pellets, at a rate of 75 per square kilometer. City areas will be baited by hand over the next two weeks.

In previous years, the southern part of the county received only 50 baits per square kilometer, but Devald said, "There was a feeling that most of the cases we saw this year were in the area where we were using 50 baits per square kilometer."

Devald said that may also be because rabid animals are entering from Erie County, which does not have a vaccine airdrop. He said plans for a regional approach with Erie, Orleans, and Genesee counties will go before the County Legislature shortly.

So far this year, 10 confirmed rabid raccoons have been killed in Niagara County. The number was eight last year, seven in 1997, 20 in 1996, and 138 in 1995, the year a rabies epidemic brought about the first airdrop.

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