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A helicopter next week will drop rabies vaccines over large residential areas of Erie County. An airplane will repeat the process Aug. 20 over large rural areas of the county.

Health Commissioner Anthony J. Billittier said the vaccine is at the core of a bait of fish meal, wax binder and fish oil intended to appeal to raccoons. He said the baits will not attract new raccoons to a homeowner's property but will be seen by raccoons already on the property.

The Health Department, working with Cornell University's Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory, plans to later trap some raccoons to find out how frequently the baits are ingested.

Billittier said the baits are not harmful to dogs, and there's no need to risk a bite from a pet by removing the bait from its mouth. But he asks that pet owners call toll-free (888) 715-7785 if people or pets are exposed to the bait. Workers would like to know if domestic animals are attracted to a specific type of bait.

The helicopter is expected to begin dropping the vaccines Tuesday -- weather permitting -- mainly over shorelines, stream beds and power line rights-of-way.

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