BATH — Twenty-four raccoons and four skunks were caught in Bath and euthanized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in March. However, no foxes, the species responsible for 18 attacks on people and pets in the city over a year, were caught.

The program, which cost the city $26,611 and ended on March 30, was approved by the city council in February. The trapping program was designed to reduce the density of animal species that may carry rabies, including gray fox, red fox, skunk and raccoon.

All the animals caught were euthanized using “American Veterinary Medical Association-approved methods,” according to a statement Bath issued Wednesday.

The AVMA 2020 guidelines for animal euthanasia outline several methods of euthanasia, including inhalation, injection and physical means, however, the guidelines stress the most important element is ensuring the animal feels as little pain as possible.

“It’s the gold standard for humane euthanization,” said Michelle Walsh, a state veterinarian for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. “There’s no mystery about what (the USDA) was doing.”

With the trapping program in the past, Melinda Baxter of Woolwich, who opposed the program from the beginning, said she feels angry and disheartened.

“It was a failed and doomed plan from the beginning,” said Baxter. “Twenty-eight animals lost their lives. … They didn’t even catch any foxes.”

Baxter, who grew up in Bath, said she felt the community lost its unity once the debate of whether trapping was a good idea arose, and said she believes some people lost their faith in Bath.

“This issue got incredibly divisive and that was disheartening,” said Baxter. “We’re used to national politics being divisive, but now to have it happening in our own backyards.”

Twenty-six non-target animals were captured and released, including three domestic cats. The cats were given to Bath Police Department’s animal control officer, who returned them to their owners.

The trapping program was conducted in March to prevent orphaning offspring born in April, but trained USDA staff still inspected adult females for signs of lactation. No such animals were captured.

Two gray foxes, three skunks, two brown bats, one muskrat, one brown rat and one raccoon were found dead or euthanized separately from the trapping program in Bath and collected for sampling. The USDA is testing the animals to determine whether any were infected by rabies.

The full report from the USDA analyzing the results of the program will be released to the public in June. The city declined to share additional information regarding the trapping program until the report is complete.

While the trapping program is over, Bath will continue to work with state and federal agencies on a plan to address rabies, which will include public education efforts and coordination of low-cost pet vaccination clinics, according to a statement released by the city on Wednesday.

The Bath City Council has also convened a rabies response task force, which city councilors created last month, to research treatment options and form a long-term plan to address the rabies outbreak. The group will also research the viability of a long-term, regional, oral rabies vaccination program.

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