Biologists Air-Drop Marshmallows to Help Control Rabies


Biologists have taken to the air to combat rabies outbreaks. Recently, more than 1 million marshmallow-flavored packets of a trial vaccine called ONRAB were dropped from small planes and helicopters or distributed by hand in five northeastern states. The effort is part of a test to see if the vaccine can be used to help stop rabies outbreaks among raccoons and skunks.

There are about 6,000 to 7,000 rabies cases annually in the United States, according to an article on the ONRAB vaccine that appeared in The Economist. The vast majority of them are among wild animals. Two to six humans die in the U.S. from the disease annually, which is down from more than 100 a year in the early 1900s. Globally, rabies kills about 60,000 people a year.

Over the years, the vaccine Raboral V-RG has been distributed in much the same way, according to the article. While it has worked well to control rabies in coyotes and foxes, it hasn’t helped eliminate the virus in raccoons and skunks.

The biologists hope ONRAB will be more effective on raccoons and skunks. And early results are positive, according to Richard Chipman, the National Rabies Management Coordinator for the United States Department of Agriculture.

“We want to march (raccoon) rabies all the way back to the ocean and eliminate it,” Chipman told The Examiner.


Trappers across the country are doing their part to control rabies by trapping raccoons. The October 2013 issue of Trapper & Predator Caller has a great story by Ralph Scherder on how to target big ’coons on your trapline.

You can pick up a copy of the digital issue on Or if you’d like to subscribe to Trapper & Predator Caller, please visit the subscription page on our website.

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