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STALLED STATE BUDGET IS ENDANGERING RABIES BAITING PROGRAM

Chautauqua County's rabies baiting program appears to have been successful so far, but it is in jeopardy now because of the stalled state budget.

Dr. Laura Bigler of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine told the County Board of Health Thursday night the window of opportunity to distribute vaccine-laced baits this year is approaching, but the state has not appropriated the money yet.

"Last year we put the baits out Oct. 15, and there were fewer animals that encountered the baits. So we're working against a substantial time limit. To be most effective the baits should go out at the end of August or early September," she said.

Despite that late start last year, Bigler said, "we are very pleased with the high numbers of tested raccoons that received the bait from the first distribution. It's higher than any of the other regions that we've tested so far, including St. Lawrence and Niagara counties."

"In terms of effectiveness, it hasn't even been a full year, but it looks very promising at this time," she added.

Raccoon jaws are laboratory tested for traces of the vaccine-lanced bait. The project's goal is to eliminate rabies in wild animals, especially raccoons, and to stop the westward spread of the disease.

Most of the funding for the project comes from the state, with the counties that are involved paying a portion of the cost.

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