Department of Agriculture and Cornell University to Vaccinate Raccoons in Parts of Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens to Help Prevent Spread of Rabies

August 24, 2018 – On Monday, August 27 through Friday, August 31, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., wildlife biologists from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Cornell University will distribute oral rabies vaccines for raccoons in Staten Island and the Gateway National Recreation Area in Brooklyn and Queens. A low-flying USDA helicopter will drop bait in raccoon habitats, which include woods, bushes, streambeds and sewers. Baits will not be dropped in dense residential areas or on roadways, parking lots or open fields. Cornell received State funding to pursue this program in New York City for the fourth year in a row. In New York City and New York State, rabies occurs primarily in raccoons, bats and skunks. In case of bad weather, the baiting will be postponed to a later date. Vaccines will also be distributed via bait stations in wooded areas in Brooklyn and Queens from September through October.

“The Health Department is committed to ensuring our residents and wildlife are safe by continuing to take preventative measure against rabies,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “I thank the United States Department of Agriculture and Cornell University for working with us for many years on this initiative.”

The brown, fish-scented baits resemble a ketchup packet and conceal a small amount of pink, liquid vaccine. Raccoons are attracted to the odor, and when they chew the bait, they become immunized and cannot be infected with rabies.

The bait itself will not harm people, but in rare instances, exposure to the liquid can cause a rash. In the unlikely event of coming into contact with the liquid, wash hands with warm, soapy water; talk to a doctor; and notify the Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222. The bait is not harmful to pets and cannot cause rabies, but it can cause vomiting if several baits are consumed. If pets find the bait, do not try to take it away from them to avoid being bitten and exposed to the vaccine.

Areas to be baited:

Areas  to be baited

To help prevent the spread of rabies, New Yorkers are reminded to take the following steps:

  • Get your cat or dog vaccinated for rabies. It’s the law.
    • Check with your vet to see if your pet is up-to-date with vaccinations. Pets need a rabies booster shot every one to three years.
    • Call 311 or visit and search for “rabies” for information on rabies.
    • Always keep cats, even vaccinated cats, indoors and supervise your dog when it is outdoors. Cats and dogs that roam could come into contact with a rabid animal, get infected, and then expose you.
  • Avoid wild, stray or unfamiliar animals. Keep children and pets away from them, too.
    • Avoid any wild, stray, sick, or injured animal, no matter how helpless it looks. Even stray cats can be dangerous.
    • Raccoons, skunks, and bats are more likely than other animals to have rabies. Be careful around them – especially if they appear sick or behave strangely. For example:
      • Normally tame animals, like cats, acting too aggressive or wild animals acting too friendly.
      • Difficulty walking around.
    • However, if raccoons are seen out during the day, they should not be assumed to carry rabies.
    • Call 311 to report an ill or injured animal.
    • Keep garbage in tight containers to avoid attracting animals.
  • If you are bitten by an animal, wash the wound, consult a doctor, and call 311 or Poison Control to report the bite.
    • First, wash the wound with soap and lots of water IMMEDIATELY.
    • Talk to a doctor right away to see if you need a tetanus shot or a rabies evaluation. If you don’t have a regular doctor, go to a hospital emergency room.
    • Call 311 to report the bite. After business hours, call Poison Control at (800) 222-1222.

For more information on rabies visit:

For more information on the oral rabies vaccine, visit:


USDA: Tanya Espinosa, (301) 851-4092
Cornell University: Laura Bigler, (607) 759-1367
NYC Health Department:, (347) 396-4177