If you think there are a lot of anti-vaxxers among human beings, you might not be surprised to learn that virtually no raccoons come in to get their rabies vaccinations each year.

Now, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) is working with the US Department of Agriculture to help prevent the spread of rabies in the state: Starting next week, Wildlife Services will be distributing oral rabies vaccine to wild raccoons in North Carolina.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the US government ran commercials encouraging people to get vaccinated. But the message cannot be taken to the raccoon community in the same way since raccoons do not watch TV, use social media or read newspapers.

However, beginning on Thursday, Oct. 6, tasty seafood treats containing oral rabies vaccine will be aerially distributed in Alleghany, Ashe, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Madison, Macon, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania, Wilkes and Yancey Counties.

Raccoons in Guilford County who wish to get vaccinated will have to make the trip to the western part of the state to do so.

“The best way to prevent rabies is to avoid contact with wild animals and to vaccinate domestic animals against rabies,” stated NCDHHS Deputy State Public Health Veterinarian Erica Berl in a press release this week. “This important program helps us prevent the spread of rabies among wild animals, which also prevents wildlife spreading rabies to people and their pets and other animals.”

In order to make the baits attractive to raccoons, plastic packets containing the vaccine doses are sprinkled with a fishmeal coating or are encased inside fishmeal–polymer blocks that state officials say are about the size of a matchbox. When a raccoon happily comes across his seafood dinner and eats it, the vaccine packet is punctured, and the animal gets vaccinated.

The state is providing this service free of charge to the raccoons.