Rabies Vaccines Are Being Airdropped on Raccoons

Stinky fish meal-covered vaccine packets are falling from the sky.

Moniek van Rijbroek on Flickr

Alabama has initiated air strikes against its native raccoon population, dropping rabies vaccines on the procyons in the hope of containing an outbreak. It’s the sort of effort that warrants a single question: What?

It turns out that the little preventative medicine bombs are as common as toast, with many health departments around the country launching them into the war on rabies on an annual basis. Texas, for example, has had an airdrop program for more than a decade. This year, that state alone dropped about 2.7 million doses.

The vaccines look like ketchup packets. They’re usually coated in fish meal to make them really stinky and attract racoons, coyotes, foxes, skunks, or whatever wildlife is likely to be in the area. Inside is an oral dose of the rabies vaccine, which they ingest once their teeth sink into the packet. The vaccines are dropped by plane into wooded areas where forest creatures hang out. Because who has the time to scatter 2.7 million ketchup packets around the wild parts of Texas on foot?

Nasty stink bombs falling from the sky are weird, but rabies is serious business. It can kill a human quickly and a dog sadly.

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