This week helicopters are flying low over Southeastern Massachusetts as part of a plan to mitigate rabies among wild animals in Barnstable and Plymouth counties. Wareham residents may have noticed the passing choppers on Tuesday or found oral rabies vaccine bait in their yards. Here's what to do with them.

According to a press release from the Cape Cod & Southeast Massachusetts Rabies Task Force (CCSMRTF), portions of both counties will experience flyovers through May 27 as part of a plan to reduce rabies numbers among raccoon populations.

The release states: "In May 2021, the first raccoon-variant rabies case on Cape Cod in over eight years was documented in Hyannis." Since then 700 raccoons have been safely trapped, vaccinated, tagged and released. Now, to further mitigate the spread, oral rabies vaccine baits are being distributed from the Cape Cod Canal to Orleans.

The distribution includes ground vehicles, bait stations and the flyover bait drops via helicopter. This week is all about helicopter bait drops.

That means towns such as Wareham, Bourne, Sandwich, Falmouth, Mashpee, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, Brewster, Harwich, Plymouth, Carver, Kingston, Middleboro, Rochester, Marion and Lakeville will see low-flying helicopters over neighborhoods and wooded areas releasing bait for wildlife to hopefully find and eat this vaccine.

However, if you find the bait, it is a whole different story.

The best bet is to leave them where you find them if you can, though the CCSMRTF press release stresses that people and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the baits. You are asked to handle them with gloves or a towel and not touch them directly with your hand. If contact with the rabies bait occurs, immediately rinse the area with warm water and soap and call (877) 722-6725.

The vaccine baits are coated sachets and fishmeal polymer blocks as seen in the photo above and may be tempting to your pets' taste buds. The baits are not toxic to animals if eaten, though they may cause an upset stomach.

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