Pat Coldwell

Bath city councilors listened Monday night to comments from locals, many of whom were opposed to the trapping plan, before voting 4-2 to stand by their original decision. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

BATH — Bath city councilors 4-2 to move forward with plans to trap and kill wild animals to reduce the risk of human interaction with wildlife, they said, not stymie the spread of rabies.

Last month, the city council decided to partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to trap species known to carry rabies, such as gray and red foxes, skunks and raccoons. Trapping is expected to cost $26,611 and will take place before the end of this month.

Ten nonlethal traps will be set in Bath. The plan calls for every fox, skunk and raccoon caught in the traps to be euthanized and their brain tissue tested for rabies by the USDA.

“Risk reduction will not cure rabies, but it will give us important data on disease prevalence in Bath,” said Councilor Phyllis Bailey. “I am focused on risk reduction management. There are a lot of scared kids out there and that’s not the quality of life we want in Bath.”

Councilor Jennifer DeChant said she voted in favor of going through with the original trapping plan because if the city didn’t, it might be liable should there be another rabid animal attack.

City councilors also voted unanimously to create a rabies response task force to research treatment options and form a long-term plan to address the rabies outbreak.

According to Bath City Manager Peter Owen, the Maine Center for Disease Control confirmed 16 cases of rabies in Bath in 2019, compared to two in 2018 and none from 2015 to 2017.

City councilors revisited their initial plan after a public forum last Thursday where residents objected to trapping, calling instead for oral rabies vaccines. Many locals attending Monday night’s meeting echoed their comments.

“I’m so convinced that the oral rabies vaccination will work,” said Pat Coldwell of Bath.

“Vaccine by oral rabies baiting program was reviewed, but not considered as a viable option due to several factors,” said Owen. “The only option that was presented to us as something that could be done immediately was trapping.”

Officials from the USDA and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have advocated against the oral rabies vaccines, saying they’d be largely ineffective and costly.

Richard Chipman, a wildlife biologist and national rabies management coordinator for the USDA, said last week the oral rabies vaccine program is a long-duration program intended for areas of more than 25 miles. Bath is about 13 square miles.

There is only one oral rabies vaccine licensed by the USDA, which treats a strain of raccoon rabies, which other animals can contract. The USDA doesn’t yet know what strain of rabies has been circulating in Bath.


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