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Barriers, Corridors, and Raccoon Variant Rabies in Northeastern Ohio: Research in Progress

  • Author(s): Berentsen, Are R.
  • Dunbar, Mike R.
  • Fitzpatrick, Chadd E.
  • McLean, Robert G.
  • et al.
Abstract

The raccoon variant of rabies is distributed throughout the eastern and southeastern United States. Historically, the westward spread of raccoon variant rabies has been prevented by geographical barriers and the distribution of oral rabies vaccines (ORV). In 2004, raccoons positive for raccoon variant rabies were discovered beyond the vaccination zone in northeastern Ohio, suggesting the potential westward spread of the disease. To evaluate the potential westward spread of rabies across Ohio, we are employing two strategies: telemetry, and genetics. We are radio-tracking raccoons to determine which factors, if any, may be considered barriers or corridors to raccoon movement. In addition, we are collecting genetic samples from raccoons in urban and rural areas in 9 distinct regions of northeastern Ohio. These samples will be used to evaluate relatedness between raccoon populations. We hypothesize that the degree of genetic relatedness will be proportional to the distance separating populations. Populations showing less or more relatedness may be indicative of barriers or corridors to movement, respectively. Preliminary movement data suggest that raccoons are remaining within their home ranges in greenbelt areas, although some have traveled over 2.0 km into urban and suburban areas before returning. Genetic sampling is 45% complete, and analysis will be performed once all samples have been collected. The results from this study will provide a more thorough understanding of raccoon movement in northeastern Ohio. This information will allow researchers to recommend ORV bait distribution strategies to more effectively stem the westward spread of raccoon variant rabies.

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